Start up: revising China’s phones, oldies don’t buy music, a disabled view of Apple Watch, Brexit raises tech prices, and more


Conference calls: we all hate them, right? But what if you could tune out and let a computer do the work of listening? Photo by alexhung on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Using speech-to-text to fully check out during conference calls • Github

Josh Newlan:

»This script listens to meetings I’m supposed to be paying attention to and pings me on hipchat when my name is mentioned.

It sends me a transcript of what was said in the minute before my name was mentioned and some time after.

It also plays an audio file out loud 15 seconds after my name was mentioned which is a recording of me saying, “Sorry, I didn’t realize my mic was on mute there.”

Uses IBM’s Speech to Text Watson API for the audio-to-text.

«

Two thoughts. Probably shouldn’t have given his real name on this; anyone else itching to use this?
link to this extract


Surprise! It’s the older people who don’t pay for music • Business Insider

Nathan McAlone:

»

This makes intuitive sense given the nostalgia many have for the music of their youth, which makes new purchases less likely as time goes on. But it also brings up an important point about the future of music.

The music industry seems to be in the midst of an unstoppable move toward streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, and unlike digital downloads, this model is built on paying for access instead of ownership. You pay a monthly fee and get to listen to anything on Spotify.

This means that the age graph above could actually change over time. When the 46% of 18 to 24-year-olds who have paid for music in the last month push past 65, does that mean they will cancel their Spotify accounts? Likely not, as this would mean not only losing the ability to find new music, which they might cease to care about, but also being able to listen, on-demand, to those old songs that have been woven into their emotional memory.

This could boost the revenues of the music industry, which some analysts already think is headed for a big turnaround.

«

Though it doesn’t show how much they paid for music. On average, people who buy downloads or CDs get an album a month – about the same as a music service subscription.
link to this extract


F.B.I. director James Comey recommends no charges for Hillary Clinton on email • NYTimes.com

Mark Landler and Eric Lichtblau:

»on a day of political high drama in Washington, Mr. Comey rebuked Mrs. Clinton as being “extremely careless” in using a private email address and server. He raised questions about her judgment, contradicted statements she has made about her email practices, said it was possible that hostile foreign governments had gained access to her account, and declared that a person still employed by the government — Mrs. Clinton left the State Department in 2013 — could have faced disciplinary action for doing what she did.

To warrant a criminal charge, Mr. Comey said, there had to be evidence that Mrs. Clinton intentionally transmitted or willfully mishandled classified information. The F.B.I. found neither, and as a result, he said, “our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”

The Justice Department is highly likely to accept the F.B.I.’s guidance, which a law enforcement official said also cleared three top aides of Mrs. Clinton who were implicated in the case: Jake Sullivan, Huma Abedin and Cheryl D. Mills.

«

But:

»In saying that it was “possible” that hostile foreign governments had gained access to Mrs. Clinton’s personal account, Mr. Comey noted that she used her mobile device extensively while traveling outside the United States, including trips “in the territory of sophisticated adversaries.”

«

Dear Hillary, please read on for useful advice.
link to this extract


Securing a travel iPhone • Filippo

Filippo Valsorda (who works at CloudFlare’s security team) has a number of recommendations, with the general ones being:

»Turn the phone off before entering any situation that might lead to you being coerced to use your fingerprint to unlock the phone. ProTip: if you reboot the phone and not unlock it, it will still let you listen to music if you use the EarBuds remote.

Upon entering hostile networks, start refusing iOS, app and carrier updates. Use Airplane mode extensively. Turn off WiFi when you don’t need it.

Avoid syncing or pairing the phone with a computer. To extract pictures, use Dropbox Camera Upload with a dedicated account and a shared folder going to your primary account. To save notes, message or email them to your main account. (Remember that email is unencrypted!)

Needless to say, keep the phone on your person at all times.

«

You’d have to be expecting pretty hostile security environments for this stuff, but some people do. Maybe Hillary Clinton’s next phone will be one of these?
link to this extract


Centre Stage Applewatch • Molly Watt Trust

“Lady Usher” has Usher’s syndrome, which means that she is profoundly deaf and is losing her sight:

»I used to rely wholly on my cumbersome iPhone6+ to help me to navigate the maze of London’s streets with my guide dog. Most people don’t realise that you need both hands to work a guide dog, and I had to clumsily juggle the lead, harness and phone, while trying to orientate myself to where I was going. The sun’s glare often made it impossible for me to read the screen. I was stopped twice by police officers telling me to put my phone away, apparently, ‘a blind person carrying a phone is asking for trouble’.

My new AppleWatch has made things so much easier. I simply key in my route on my phone, pop it in my bag and the watch, hidden safely on my wrist, vibrates to tell me to go left and right using two different tactile pulses. Another signal lets me know when I have arrived at my destination. It is such a simple idea and so damn enabling.

Just three weeks after I got the watch, my guide dog and I entered a month-long team steps challenge at my work place. Together, we walked almost 200 miles through the busy streets of London, simply by following the vibrations of the AppleWatch and the simple on screen instructions. For the first time ever, it felt like we owned the streets. The whole of London has opened up to me for the first time since I lost my sight.

«

As she says,

»”If there was ever a good time to be losing your sight when you are already deaf, it is 2016. We are on the verge of great technology breakthroughs that will help to level the playing field even for those who are both deaf and blind. Driverless cars, haptic virtual reality, wearable technology – they will all soon be an everyday reality.”

«

Often we forget how transformative tech really can be.
link to this extract


The AI that (almost) lets you speak to the dead • Ars Technica UK

Bob Dormon:

»The source of this existential conundrum is Luka, a company that focuses on what it calls “high-end conversational AI.” It has a free iOS app, also called Luka, which seems pretty benign, featuring a number of chatbots covering a range of tasks that rely on text input to respond and interact in a friendly way. That’s a lot more than just the Q&A you get with Siri. The company develops new chatbots for all sorts of different purposes all the time. For instance, three recent ones are based on the cast of the HBO series Silicon Valley. Fans can talk to these fictional characters and get responses in keeping with their on-screen persona.

Very recently however, Luka was adapted in a brand new way, to include a chatbot based on a real human being—one who just so happens to be dead. It’s this ghost-in-the-machine that has the audience spellbound, as Luka’s cofounder Eugenia Kuyda explains how text messages, social media conversations, and other sources of information on the deceased were grafted onto an existing AI platform. It started out as an experiment that, in a matter of months, enabled her and others to continue to interact with Roman Mazurenko, a fellow Russian who had died in a road traffic accident in November last year, the man she describes as her soul mate.

«

Amazingly, the whole (quite long) feature goes all the way through without once mentioning that this was pretty much the basis of an episode of Black Mirror.
link to this extract


Amazon.com: Matthew Garrett’s review of AuYou Wi-Fi Switch, Timing Wireless Smart …

Garrett is a security researcher, and he got one of these free in return for writing an honest review. Hold tight:

»In practice the app is looking for a network called “SmartPlug” and this version of the hardware creates a network called “XW-G03”, so it never finds it. I ended up reverse engineering the app in order to find out the configuration packet format, sent it myself and finally had the socket on the network. This is, needless to say, not a reasonable thing to expect average users to do. The alternative is to find an older Android device or use an iPhone to do the setup.

Once it’s working, you can just hit a button on the app and your socket turns on or off. You can also program a timer. If your phone is connected to the same network as the socket then this is just done by sending a command directly, but if not you send a command via an intermediate server in China (the socket connects to the server when it joins the wireless and then waits for commands)…

…This is a huge problem. If anybody knows the MAC address of one of your sockets, they can control it from anywhere in the world. You can’t set a password to stop them, and a normal home router configuration won’t block this. You need to explicitly firewall off the server (it’s 115.28.45.50) in order to protect yourself. Again, this is completely unrealistic to expect for a home user, and if you do this then you’ll also entirely lose the ability to control the device from outside your home.

In summary: by default this is stupendously insecure, there’s no reasonable way to make it secure, and if you do make it secure then it’s much less useful than it’s supposed to be. Don’t buy it.

«

Apart from that, how’s it going with the Internet of Things? (AuYou has withdrawn the device from sale.)
link to this extract


Asian market turmoil: HTC and Huawei down, Vivo, OPPO and Asus on the rise • AndroidAuthority

Kris Carlon:

»this year Huawei looks to be in a little trouble. While still maintaining the number one spot in terms of production volume estimates (a loose indicator of sales success), Huawei’s dominance looks to be on the decline. Market analysts TrendForce have just downgraded Huawei’s production estimates for the year. This potentially puts the number one spot up for grabs next year as other OEMs ascend rapidly.

Just as Huawei is starting to plateau, smaller companies like Vivo and OPPO are on the rise. While Huawei’s predicted growth has been lowered to 10.2% year-on-year, OPPO has been estimated to grow by 59.2% and Vivo by 40.4%. Xiaomi and Lenovo are expected to see negative growth in 2016, continuing their decline. Meanwhile, young upstart LeEco is enjoying massive growth of 300% year-on-year, even if its production volumes are still well below its more established competition.

«

OPPO and vivo are low-end devices; Huawei is pushing into the higher-end space. Xiaomi and Lenovo have problems though if that forecast holds.
link to this extract


Tech companies blame price rises on Brexit vote • BBC News

Leo Kelion:

»US computer-maker Dell and the Chinese smartphone company OnePlus are both raising their prices in the UK and saying the move is the result of the nation’s vote to leave the EU.

Another company, used by several camera equipment-makers to bring their goods to the UK, has also revealed it will soon follow suit. Intro 2020 said it had been “punched in the stomach very hard” by sterling’s drop after the Brexit referendum. Experts predict further price rises.

The pound hit a fresh 31-year low against the dollar earlier on Wednesday – it has dropped more than 12% since the eve of the Brexit referendum result. Falls against some Asian currencies have been even larger.

«

Others will follow; it’s just going to be a matter of time. Only a lunatic would have hedged for that big a drop in sterling, which means dollar-denominated prices will rise in a month or two.
link to this extract


HummingBad malware puts 10 million Android devices at risk • SlashGear

JC Torres:

»According to Check Point, as many as 10m devices around the globe have infected apps installed on their Android smartphone or tablet. Unsurprisingly, majority of those come from China, India, and the usual Asian countries, but the US isn’t clean of it either.

hummingbad-2

At the moment, however, HummingBad isn’t doing maximum damage. It does attempt to root devices in order to further spread its malware, install more infected apps, and whatnot. Failing to do that, it has fallback measures to gain access. All of these are being done in the name of generating ad revenue. However, considering it tries to gain root access, its actual potential is far more frightening. That said, based on Check Point’s own data, older Android devices are more prone to getting infected, with Android 5.0 Lollipop and Android 6.0 Marshmallow showing the smallest shares.

hummingbad-3

However, it is the narrative around HummingBad that is actually more worrying. Check Point traced the malware to a Chinese entity named YingMob, which turned out to be a mobile ad server company. In a nutshell, it is actually a legit company partnering with other legit companies to serve ads. Most malware groups turn to hide underground, but YingMob operates out in the open, though the group behind HummingBad is just one part of the company.

«

Usually Android malware is restricted to China; this is unusual and worrying.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

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