Start up: Pokemon Go’s $3.6bn sum, iPad v Linux?, the rise of wanksomware, GCHQ’s link honeypot, and more

“Wow, I can see where the pound-dollar exchange rate used to be!” Photo by Janitors on Flickr.

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

Pokémon GO: an opportunity, not a threat • App Annie

Sameer Singh:

»The Pokémon GO phenomenon is showing little sign of losing steam. The app continues to earn daily revenue of over $10m on iOS and Google Play combined, even though it has been over three weeks since its initial launch. Because of its unprecedented success, we have received numerous inquiries from our customers about its effect on revenue and user engagement of other leading apps and games.

Interestingly, it appears that Pokémon GO’s impact has been largely additive to the app economy. More importantly, it has given app developers a blueprint for increasing engagement with their users and opening up new revenue opportunities.

Pokémon GO’s impact on revenue of other Games on iOS and Google Play has been mostly muted in countries where it’s available. The United States did see a brief dip, but quickly regained prior levels.

According to data from App Annie Intelligence, Pokémon GO has not had a sustained and meaningful impact on the daily revenue of other games on iOS and Google Play.


On the face of it, this doesn’t make sense. This is an annualised revenue of $3.6bn which, if App Annie is correct, has simply appeared like a rare Pokemon out of nowhere. It has to be spending that otherwise would go on something else. The question is, what? Possibly it’s subtracted from other games that people launched at the same time, and never had the chance to earn any revenue – and so don’t show on App Annie’s chart. (And it does look like Germany has been affected.)
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iPad-only is the new desktop Linux — Medium

Watts Martin on the differences between using a desktop OS and a mobile OS, such as the iPad Pro:

»Downloading an image from a web site, resizing and editing it in an image editor, and uploading it to WordPress — these are things that people do all the time and require coordination between multiple apps, yet don’t demand specific apps.

If you’re going to tell me “normal people” don’t do those tasks, please don’t. Quilters run blogs. Salespeople create presentations. And non-techie writers send revisions to editors. It’s us nerds who insist that iOS solves the “problem” of normal people who don’t understand the file system putting all their files on the desktop. But the desktop acts as shared document storage, which is something it turns out normal people sometimes need, and iOS does not solve that problem. Lecture me about the virtues of containers all you want, but there is no world in which having to use Dropbox as a temporary storage medium is a step forward.

“But Workflow — ”


Conceptually, I like Workflow. You can do some fantastic stuff with it. It’s kind of like Keyboard Maestro on the Mac. But you can do so much with KM that you can’t with Workflow, and while I know some people think Workflow is much easier to understand than KM or Automator, I can barely make heads or tails of Workflow’s UI. Workflow has an added ball and chain: switching between apps under iOS is, compared to the Mac, positively glacial.

But Workflow is an essential tool for being an iOS Power User, for that thrill of figuring out how to get relatively complex tasks done, right? Realizing that led me to a comparison that’s going to raise hackles, but here it is:

Using iOS as your primary OS is like using desktop Linux.


It’s definitely true that without Workflow, you can’t get done a lot of tasks that require content editing and twiddling which usually straddle multiple apps done. It can take some time to figure out Workflow; you have to rethink what you consider “objects” in the normal scripting sense. (After some experimentation, I’ve figured out how to do my essential workflow for this post in Workflow.)
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Field in view: Vive is a victim of Brexit, but the UK price hike is not OK • UploadVR

Jamie Feltham:

»doing business with foreign companies is now more expensive than ever. Hence, HTC has decided to make up for its newfound losses by asking for more money in the first place. It’s easy to see how HTC reached this conclusion, and it’s far from the only company that’s considered this move and acted upon it. Inflation is an unfortunate reality as the UK strives to find its new place in the world.

But, to me, that doesn’t nearly justify punishing UK consumers by adding a significant amount of money onto the price of the Vive without offering any extra value. What’s most frustrating, though, is how the company has handled the situation thus far.

Let’s put this in a little context for our US readers. Without shipping the Vive’s UK price converts to a jaw-dropping $1003, roughly $200 more than the US price of the same unit. Currency conversions rarely work out in the UK’s favor when it comes to hardware, but this is certainly the largest gap I’ve seen between the two in some time, certainly within the VR industry. And we haven’t seen any other major gaming devices hike their price; the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One remain at their original tags.


I don’t think Feltham understands forex or VAT. Also, the lossmaking HTC is hardly in a position to eat a 10% differential in price.
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Reversing the wall • Medium

Martin Conte Mac Donell works at Lyft:

»Apple welcomed us [to its Worldwide Developers Conference] in an imaginative and playful way. A wall of sentences pared down to the essence of apps but without removing poetry.

The Hello wall at Apple’s WWDC 2016

“What if we could get the text of every sentence, in the right order and associated with the right colour?” I asked.

And I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t trying to make the ephemeral endure, I was just wondering if it could be done before the conference was over.

This post will go over the steps I took to get this done but the tl;dr; is: it’s possible; go here and check it out.


This is an amazing piece of “hacking”, in the old sense of making something clever and delightful happen.
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Heat wave sparks anthrax outbreak in Russia’s yamalo-nenets area • NBC News

Alexy Eremenko:

»Thirteen members of a nomadic Siberian community have been hospitalized after a heat wave thawed the carcass of an anthrax-infected reindeer and sparked an outbreak of the disease.

Around 1,500 of the animals have died from the highly infectious disease since Sunday, the government of Russia’s Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district announced on its website Tuesday.

A state of emergency has been imposed throughout the region in western Siberia due to the incident — the first of its kind since 1941.

The carcass of a reindeer thought to have died from anthrax decades ago thawed and released the bacteria, sending the disease rippling through a population of animals already weakened by unusually high temperatures, according to local officials.


Suspicions high that global warming, causing melting of permafrost, is to blame.
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‘Webcam hackers caught me wanking, demanded $10k ransom’ • triple j

»One day in Melbourne, when the sun was out and the birds were singing, Matt opened an email and was greeted with a video of a man wanking.

The man was him.

“There I was in all my glory,” he told triple j’s Veronica & Lewis.

He had been hacked. A ‘ransomware’ program had infected his computer allowing the hackers to film him through the webcam. He had been filmed in a compromising situation.

Now they wanted money.

“There was an email saying they were going to release footage to all my Facebook friends and people I worked with if I don’t pay them money.”

“Initially I laughed.”


I do love how this Australian Broadcasting Commission site is so straightforward about the amount of wanking going on. And then mentions Mark Zuckerberg having covered over his webcam camera. Hmm…
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Cirrus earnings bullish for IPhone 7 • Seeking Alpha

Mark Hibben:

»During its conference call Cirrus management was careful to state that it couldn’t go into specifics about its number one customer, Apple. However, in the shareholder letter that accompanied the earnings release on Wednesday, Cirrus acknowledged in effect that Apple still accounts for 68% of its revenue, while Samsung accounts for 12%. Cirrus refers to “OEMs 3-10” for the rest of its customers that make up the remaining 20%.

Cirrus provides audio codec chips. What are those? Codec chips provide two crucial functions. They provide decoding of compressed audio typically used in MP3 players and smartphones. This is digital processing of the audio files, usually hard wired into the silicon for speed and low latency. The other crucial function they provide is conversion of the digital data to an analog signal that can actually be played back through headphones or speakers. Codec chips may also contain an audio amplifier that can directly drive a set of headphones.


Hibben is one of the more sane commentators on Seeking Alpha. (There are lots. They vary in quality.) This seems to have a pointer towards no headphone jack, given that Cirrus made the Logic MFi (Made For iPhone/iPod/iPad) Headset Development Kit for Lightning-based headsets.
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Apple could never recreate the success of the iPhone. But it doesn’t need to • The Guardian

I wrote about what the latest Apple results (where shares went up after revenues and iPhone shipments went down) presages for the future:

»Apple has underperformed the market, recording two successive quarters of falling iPhone sales amid fears that consumers will not flock to upgrade when Apple launches new models in the autumn. Asked about those concerns last week, Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, said the non-hardware part of the business would take the strain. Cook said he expected the services unit to be a star performer, through iTunes, app and iCloud storage sales. “We think [revenue from] services will continue to grow very briskly,” he said.

Nonetheless, despite their positive response last week, investors are understandably keen for Apple to unearth another big seller, with the iPad and the Watch failing to match the iPhone’s success. Could “Project Titan” – the codename for Apple’s electric car project – be the new smash hit? Or might virtual reality headsets, or some augmented reality product akin to Pokémon Go, prompt a new reason for overnight queues outside Apple stores? Analysts are sceptical. With a billion iPhones sold since the handset’s 2007 release, it is the most successful consumer product ever, generating almost $625bn (£475bn) in revenues in just nine years. Apple will struggle to come up with a concept or a category that matches the iPhone – what other hi-tech product could you potentially sell to everyone in the world?


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Moon calendar •

»A 2016 moon calendar. Click to show today.

Uses the “Simple” moon plase calculation from Moon Phase Calculators. Built with Forked from curran’s block: Moon


Neat and diagrammatic (you’ll have to click through to see the rendering).
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Exclusive: Clinton campaign also hacked in attacks on Democrats – sources • Reuters

Mark Hosenball, Joseph Menn and John Walcott:

»The computer network used by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign was hacked as part of a broad cyber attack on Democratic political organizations, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The latest attack, which was disclosed to Reuters on Friday, follows reports of two other hacks on the Democratic National Committee and the party’s fundraising committee for candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives.

The U.S. Department of Justice national security division is investigating whether cyber hacking attacks on Democratic political organizations threatened U.S. security, sources familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The involvement of the Justice Department’s national security division is a sign that the Obama administration has concluded that the hacking was state sponsored, individuals with knowledge of the investigation said.


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British spies used a URL shortener to honeypot Arab Spring dissidents • Motherboard

Musafa Al-Bassam:

»A now-defunct free URL shortening service——was set up by GCHQ that enabled social media signals intelligence. was used on Twitter and other social media platforms for the dissemination of pro-revolution messages in the Middle East.

These messages were intended to attract people who were protesting against their government in order to manipulate them and collect intelligence that would help the agency further its aims around the world. The URL shortener made it easy to track them.

I was able to uncover it because I was myself targeted in the past.

The project is linked to the GCHQ unit called the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group or JTRIG, whose mission is to use “dirty tricks” to “destroy, deny, degrade [and] disrupt” enemies by “discrediting” them, according to leaked documents.

The URL shortening service was codenamed DEADPOOL and was one of JTRIG’s “shaping and honeypots” tools, according to a GCHQ document leaked in 2014.


Al-Bassam went under the moniker of “Tflow” when he was part of LulzSec. You have to admit, it’s a great idea of GCHQ’s to set up a link shortener so that people will connect to it and you can see where they come from. How do you spy on the web? Become part of the web. (The Snowden documents contain other very clever things that GCHQ did.)

Also, “Deadpool”? Well before the film came out. Does this mean there will be a film called Luscious Giraffe, or whatever the weird GCHQ naming system generates?
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Making markets work for citizens • Huffington Post

Margrethe Vestager, who is the European Commission’s competition commissioner:

»Do you remember what it was like to search the Internet before Google invented their search machine? I myself have a vague memory of it being very difficult. Today it is easy. But these fabulous innovations don’t give the company the right to stop others from competing. Because consumers need competition and innovation, so they can choose the product that’s best for them. And the economy needs competition, to drive companies to invest.

That’s why we’re concerned that Google seems to have favoured its own comparison shopping service in its search results. It means consumers see the results that Google wants them to see, which might not be the most relevant ones. And if Google’s rivals believe that their services will never be as visible as Google’s, no matter how good they are, that could discourage them from investing and invent new services all together.

We want to ensure that consumers have a choice, and to make sure Internet businesses keep investing in better products. Markets need to stay competitive because in a competitive market companies will invest. And have a fair chance to make it in the market.


Wait – “seems to have favoured”? Surely the point of the EC’s complaint is that Google has favoured its own services. Vestager has had ages; what’s the holdup to taking action, exactly, if this risk to rivals exists?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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