Start up: Tor’s sex woe, who opens emails?, park with Apple Maps, Xiaomi’s laptop challenge, and more

Augmented reality: this is just the start. What might the finish (or middle) look like? Photo by wZa HK on Flickr.

A selection of 12 links for you. In the 1970s you’d have counted to doublecheck – “you know how computers are.” I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Tor project confirms sexual misconduct claims against employee • The New York Times

Nocole Perlroth:


The Tor Project, a nonprofit digital privacy group, announced on Wednesday that an internal investigation had confirmed allegations of sexual misconduct against a former employee who was the public face of the organization.

The group, which has risen to prominence at a time of controversy over government surveillance, had been grappling for months with allegations against Jacob Appelbaum, a top figure in the internet privacy debate. Mr. Appelbaum resigned from the Tor Project in May.

The allegations have divided the internet privacy community and have raised questions about management of the project, which promotes the use of software that helps internet users mask their online identities and whereabouts.

One result was the replacement of the group’s entire board this month.

On Wednesday, the group said that a seven-week investigation into the allegations involving Mr. Appelbaum determined they were accurate.


For his part, Appelbaum insists claims relating to him are false.
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Videos of the future • Benedict Evans

Evans (who is suddenly blogging a lot – is summer quiet in Silicon Valley?) on augmented and virtual reality:


Where VR seems to me to be a branch off the main strand of computing, a little like games consoles were a branch off the PC, mostly, AR (augmented reality, sometimes called mixed reality) can be your main screen. It can be the next multitouch. Forecasting what that would look like is a bit like forecasting this music video [which is designed to be viewed on a smartphone and uses emoji and apps] in 2006, before the iPhone launched, but this concept video [below] has a go from a dystopian angle – this is what happens if you install too many toolbars in Internet Explorer, so to speak. 

What this really gets at, I think, is that after a decade in which phones swallowed physical objects, with cameras, radios, music players and so on turned into apps, AR might turn those apps back into physical objects – virtual ones, of course. On one hand cameras digitise everything, and on the other AR puts things back into the world. 


Watch the video – it really is terrific (and scary).
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Why do people open emails? – The Signal

Justin Megahan:


armed with 85,637 subject lines from Mixpanel campaigns – totaling 1.7 billion emails sent and 232 million opens, over a span from June 2012 to May 2016 – I looked to answer the eternal question: What makes people open an email?

One thing worth calling out right away is that Mixpanel campaigns aren’t necessarily one-time email blasts out to an entire list. They can be, but more often they are event-driven emails, meaning the user took some action to trigger the email notification. For example, a campaign might target users who have created an account in the last 30 days, but haven’t returned in the last seven days. Then, for as long as that campaign is active, whenever a user qualifies, they receive the email.

Okay, now here’s what I learned.

Most emails aren’t opened.


Uh-huh. 13.5% overall open rate. BUT – and it’s a big but – variations matter. Urgency or “offers” actually don’t work. “How to” does. And so do questionmarks. And manners. And small groups. Hell, you’ll have to read it now.
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Microsoft thinks it can do a better iPhone camera app than Apple • Recode

Ina Fried:


The app is part of two big trends at Microsoft. First, and best publicized, has been Microsoft’s move into iOS and Android. Less well known is a big shift inside Microsoft Research, which for a long time was seen as a pure research house. Historically, one of Microsoft’s existing product groups would have to decide it liked a research concept and then do the work of commercialization. With Fix, Hyperlapse and other recent releases, Microsoft is showing it is willing to let the research team directly bring products to market.

Weisberg said that while Microsoft isn’t charging for Pix, it still reaps benefits as more consumers gain an appreciation for the company’s ability to lead in the burgeoning field of machine intelligence.

Weisberg and Microsoft Research colleague Neel Joshi showed off the app at a tricked-out loft in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood last week, using a specially built rig that allows two iPhones to shoot simultaneously, one using Pix and the other using Apple’s camera app.


I argued in Microsoft’s internal magazine about 10 years ago that it should quit the blue-skies stuff in Microsoft Research – which had people even then studying computer Go – and focus on applied uses. They missed Go by a mile, but they’re finally getting the applied stuff.
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Parkopedia to provide parking services to Apple globally • PR Newswire


Parkopedia®, the world’s leading parking services provider with more than 40 million parking spots listed, today announced that it is to provide its parking services to Apple Maps.

Apple Map users will be able to view key information about parking garages and lots around the world.  In addition, users will have the option to click through to Parkopedia’s website and iOS app to view more detailed information including pricing, user reviews, special offers and real-time space availability. They will also be able to make reservations.


Blimey. First carpool karaoke, now this.
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Is Gorilla Glass 5 the end of the road for sapphire screens? • Tech.pinions

Tim Bajarin:


At a special event in Palo Alto last week, Corning announced its newest version of Gorilla Glass 5, which is by far the thinnest as well as strongest glass screen they have ever made. When they were working on the specifications of Gorilla Glass 5, they studied one key issue that drove a critical part of its ultimate design. In the past, Gorilla Glass was created to withstand a drop from about the waist of most individuals. But in their research, they realized that, for a lot of people, they often lift it much higher when using it to take selfies or take photos. So, with that in mind, Gorilla Glass 5 is designed to withstand a drop of 1.6 meters (a little over five feet). They showed us a smartphone using Gorilla Glass 5 that had already been dropped around 20 times and dropped it again on a hard surface — it did not break. They showed other tests of Gorilla Glass 5 taking a direct hit from various objects and withstanding all without any breakage.

Gorilla Glass 5 is already shipping to vendors and will be in some smartphones by this fall. Corning’s commitment to creating even thinner glass with harder surfaces is significant. I believe Gorilla Glass 5 makes it unlikely a sapphire smartphone screen of any type will ever gain traction. This product from Corning pretty much makes a need for it less likely.


Huawei made a sapphire-screened phone in 2014, expecting the iPhone 6 would have one. It didn’t. Sapphire is sooo over.
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Xiaomi takes on the MacBook with the $750 “Mi Notebook Air” • Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo on the two Xiaomi laptops:


Both devices have one USB Type-C port for charging, 2 USB 3.0 Type-A ports, an HDMI port, and a headphone jack. The aluminum body comes in gold and silver, and there’s a backlit keyboard. Manufacturing duties for the Mi Notebook Air are handled by Inventec and Wistron. The outside is absolutely devoid of logos, while the inside follows the MacBook layout pretty closely other than the body-colored keyboard.

The move into the struggling laptop market is an interesting one for Xiaomi. Xiaomi’s usual strategy is to make money with apps and services on its MIUI Android ROM. There isn’t much in the way of Xiaomi services for Windows 10, though. The devices do have “Mi Sync” software, which presumably will pull down some phone data. The laptop can also be paired to a Mi Band fitness band, so it will automatically unlock when the wearer is near, Apple Watch style.

Xiaomi isn’t the first smartphone maker to make the jump to notebooks. Xiaomi’s Chinese rival Huawei introduced the MateBook earlier this year. The 2-in-1 Surface clone marked the Huawei’s first foray into larger mobile devices, but it featured little that made it stand out from the crowd. We’ll have to see if Xiaomi can do better.


Those are high prices for laptops in China that aren’t made by Apple. Either Xiaomi knows something the rest of us don’t about the laptop market in China (and the laptop market generally), or it’s going to fail hard on this one. Hmm. Let’s see if there’s any supply chain information…
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Chip orders for notebooks from Huawei and Xiaomi falling, say sources • Digitimes

Cage Chao and Jessie Shen:


Chip orders for notebooks from Huawei Device and Xiaomi have fallen rapidly recently, according to industry sources.

Huawei and Xiaomi have both set their shipment goals at one million notebooks for 2016, which are likely to fail, the sources indicated. Orders placed by the two vendors already fell below 100,000 units each in March, the sources said.

Xiaomi once demanded its contract maker Inventec and other related Taiwan-based components suppliers get ready for monthly orders for as many as 300,000-400,000 notebooks, the sources noted. However, actual orders placed by the China-based firm reach only less than 50,000 units, the sources said.

Notebook orders placed by Huawei have also been lower than expected, the sources indicated. Huawei’s initial focus on high-end 2-in-1 models is hampering its notebook sales, the sources said.


They could be sourcing inside China. But they probably aren’t.
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From 0 to 1,000,000 to ? • Medium

Adrien Roose is cofounder and CEO of


Take Eat Easy’s business model is fairly simple. On each order, we charge the restaurant a 25-30% commission, and a 2,5€ delivery fee to the customer. With this c. 10€ of net revenue / order, we then have to pay the bicycle courier.

Contribution Margin is thus a function of Restaurant Commission, Average Order Value, Delivery Fee and Delivery Cost.

The first three parameters are mostly dictated by market conditions. Delivery Cost, however, is a direct function of “Courier Utilisation”, the number of deliveries / courier / hour.

Courier utilisation is one of the most important metrics in our business. Assuming couriers need to make minimum 15€ / hour not to churn, a low courier utilisation (less than 1,5 deliveries / courier / hour) implies a negative contribution margin.


Unfortunately looks like the third number in the title will also be “0”.
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Tumblr to introduce ads across all blogs • TechCrunch

Sarah Perez:


Tumblr this week quietly announced plans to roll out a new advertising program across its site which will see it implementing ads across users’ blogs. The company did not provide specific details on how the program will operate, but it appears to be an expansion of its earlier Creatrs program, which connects brands with Tumblr users directly, instead of having advertisers work with third-party influencer networks.

Now, Tumblr says that the same opportunity provided by its Creatrs program will be available to “any eligible Tumblr—poet, musician, fan artist, and misfit weirdo memelord alike,” the company explains on its official Staff blog.

Tumblr users wishing to earn money in the program will need to go through some sort of registration process, which is launching this year, Tumblr also noted. The details of the partner program and how users will be onboarded is still being worked out, however.


Yahoo bought Tumblr in May 2013, completed in June. It’s taken three years to sort this out?
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In China, Apple’s local competition takes a bite out of its revenue • WSJ

Eva Dou:


Apple is facing growing challenges in China, a key market contributing a fifth of its revenue. Local rivals including Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo are increasingly moving from the budget phone market to the high-end segment. Market leader Samsung has moved to slash phone prices in China in a bid to claw back lost market share in the country. 

In recent months, Chinese smartphone makers have scrambled to pre-empt the next iPhone by beating Apple to the punch on features such as dual-lens cameras and brighter organic light-emitting diode or OLED screens.

“This quarter will still be a challenge for Apple,” said Canalys analyst Nicole Peng. “Local vendors are very, very strong this quarter.”

A prime example is an event scheduled to take place at China’s national convention center in Beijing, just hours after the iPhone maker’s earnings conference. One of China’s most valuable startups, Xiaomi Corp., plans to launch a new smartphone Wednesday with advanced features including a dual-lens camera and an OLED screen, both of which Apple is developing for future iPhones but has yet to bring to market, according to people familiar with iPhone development plans.


Apple always struggles in the summer, though the iPhone SE – its first mid-cycle launch – seems to be selling OK. Xiaomi’s high-end phones don’t sell well; as Samsung’s actions show, the action if you’re not Apple is principally at the low end.
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The Ice Bucket Challenge just funded an ALS breakthrough • Wired

Libby Plummer:


A breakthrough in ALS research has been made thanks to funding from the Ice Bucket Challenge social media campaign.

A newly identified gene, NEK1, now ranks among the most common genes that contributes to the disease, presenting scientists with another potential target for developing therapies.

ALS, also known as motor neurone disease or MND, is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord leading to paralysis and eventually, death.

The viral campaign, designed to promote awareness of the disease and raise research funds, involves a nominated person pouring a bucket of ice and water over their own head, videoing the stunt and posting it on social media.


Good Thing Happens Via Social Media; A Nation Amazed.
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