Start up: cyborg Olympics!, the lost iPhone conundrum, explaining iris scanning, Basis burns, and more

This might be too many for a listicle, but odd numbers intrigue more than even. Honest. Photo by Hecuba’s Story on Flickr.

Business note: The Overspill’s Start up will be taking a week’s break next week, returning – if we’re spared – on August 15. So don’t come crying to me on Monday when your inbox is empty.

A selection of 12 links for you. The wrong number, as you’ll see. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

‘Digital detox’ promotes offline focus on love and jobs •

Madhumita Murgia:

»One in three Britons is choosing to undergo a “digital detox”, unplugging themselves from the internet in an effort to focus on their work and relationships, according to an Ofcom survey.

More than a third of people surveyed by the telecoms regulator said they had deliberately taken a break from their connected devices at some point, with 5% doing so for as long as a month. One in ten said they had done so as recently as the previous week from when they were surveyed…

…The study — of 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers — found that many felt bound to their devices, often experiencing separation anxiety if parted from them. In fact, six in ten internet users described themselves as being “hooked”, spending the equivalent of a day a week online.

More than half said they slept with their phone within reaching distance, checking it first thing in the morning and last thing at night. A quarter of mobile users said the first thing they did if they woke up during the night was check their phone.

A majority said their digital obsession negatively affected their offline lives: nearly half said they had ignored household chores and put off sleep as a result of spending too much time online, while a third felt they had neglected family and friends for their devices.


The full Ofcom report is here (and press release here).
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Welcome to the Cyborg Olympics • Nature News & Comment

Sara Reardon:

»Around the world, nearly 80 research groups in 25 countries are honing their technologies for the €5m (US$5.5m) event. They range from small, ad hoc teams to the world’s largest manufacturers of advanced prostheses, and comprise about 300 scientists, engineers, support staff and competitors: disabled people who will each compete in one of six events that will challenge their ability to tackle the chores of daily life. A race for prosthetic-arm users will be won by the first cyborg to complete tasks including preparing a meal and hanging clothes on a line. A powered-wheelchair race will test how well participants can navigate everyday obstacles such as bumps and stairs.

The venue — Zurich’s 7,600-spectator ice-hockey stadium — should combine with the presence of television cameras and team jerseys to give the Cybathlon a sporting vibe similar to that of the Paralympics, in which disabled athletes compete using wheelchairs, running blades and other assistive technologies. The difference is that the Paralympics celebrates exclusively human performance: athletes must use commercially available devices that run on muscle power alone. But the Cybathlon honours technology and innovation. Its champions will use powered prostheses, often straight out of the lab, and are called pilots rather than athletes. The hope is that devices trialled in the games will accelerate technology development and eventually be used by people around the world.


Now this is an Olympics we can all support.
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This is what Apple should tell you when you lose your iPhone • Hacker Noon

Joonas Kiminki:

»We got the car window fixed in a matter of hours, I later bought a new phone etc etc, but then yesterday — eleven days after the phone was stolen — the most interesting thing happened: I got an SMS and an email notifying that the phone was found!

The email looks exactly like an Apple email should. The sender is “Apple”. Google Inbox, Apple Mail and the traditional Gmail all let the email pass as non-suspicious. All the links in the footer lead to the right places.

I of course rushed to the address on the link and then started typing my credentials, but then suddenly stopped. Something was just not right.

At this point it’s probably best to note that I’m sort of professional. I’m managing director in a company that builds and supports large scale websites. We deal with web stuff all day long. I’m pretty sure many people would have just punched in their apple id and password and only then wondered why the login doesn’t work.

It does look very convincing, doesn’t it? All the links work, there’s jQuery features in place for a smooth user experience etc.

Let me take you inside the mind of a person who’s lost their phone for a while. You’re of course bummed that it got stolen in the first place. Everybody blames themselves at least a bit. Then, you set all the notifications on for notifying if it ever finds its way back online. Finally, you sort of forget it — and when messages finally arrive that it’s found, you rush at full speed to learn about your dear phone’s adventure.

Looking at the page above, there were two things that alarmed me. First, the address seemed a little off. Not really something Apple would use, is it?…

… If you ever lose your iPhone, iPad or iPod, be extra alert for upcoming identity theft attempts. This is what and Apple should’ve told me 12 days ago when I searched for what to do. The scam was so professional with perfect English and mobile responsive web pages that I consider myself lucky not to have given away my password. And as said, I’m sort of a professional.


Kiminki makes a good point. Clearly, thieves have wised up to the fact they can’t unlock phones without the iCloud passwords, and are phishing to a remarkable degree to get around this.
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Oppo smartphone shipments marred by tight AMOLED supply • Digitimes

Sammi Huang and Steve Shen:

»Shipments of smartphones by China-based Oppo may fall short of its revised goal of shipping 90-100m units in 2016 due to insufficient supply of AMOLED panels from Samsung Display, according to industry sources.

Oppo shipped 50m smartphones 2015 and originally set a goal to ship 60m in 2016. However, the vendor raised its shipment goal for the year to 80m units in June and revise the goal again to 90-100m recently, the sources indicated.

Oppo has been increasing its orders for smartphone panels recently, looking to achieve its shipment goal. However, Samsung Display is having trouble supplying sufficient AMOLED panels to Oppo due to tight production capacity, said the sources.


Problem of relying on a competitor for your display panels. What happens once Apple starts wanting OLED too?
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Electric vehicle charge points to outnumber petrol stations by 2020, say Nissan • The Guardian

James Murray:

»Public electric vehicle (EV) charge points will outnumber petrol stations in the UK by the end of the decade, marking a potential tipping point in the adoption of zero emission vehicles.

That is the conclusion of a new analysis by auto giant and EV manufacturer Nissan, which argues that based on current trends EV charge points will overtake traditional petrol stations by August 2020.

The report found that there were 8,472 traditional fuel stations in the UK at the end of last year, representing a steady decline from the 37,539 recorded in 1970. Based on the rate of decline in recent decades the number of petrol stations is likely to fall to under 7,870 by summer 2020, Nissan said.

In contrast, the UK’s EV charging network is expanding fast and plans are underway to accelerate its growth further over the coming years. As such, Nissan predicts the number of public EV charging locations will reach 7,900 by August 2020, although it adds that “accelerating adoption of electric vehicles means this crossover could happen a lot sooner”.

The report notes that there are now 4,100 public EV charging locations in the UK, representing rapid expansion given there were only a few hundred as recently as 2011. In contrast, more than 75% of traditional petrol stations have closed in the last 40 years.


Hmm. Define “traditional” petrol station. Does that include supermarkets? They’re the ones which have been wiping out the other petrol stations, but it’s unlikely they in turn will close.
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Keeping an eye on security: the iris scanner of the Galaxy Note7 • Samsung Newsroom

»Each individual has a uniquely different and highly intricate iris pattern in each eye, which is completely developed at a very young age and remains unchanged throughout one’s lifetime. This, combined with the fact that iris patterns are almost impossible to replicate, makes iris scanning one of the most secure and reliable biometric techniques available.

As a result, it is widely being used for access control in pharmaceutical dispensing, border control and airport security…

…Samsung was able to apply two new components to enable iris recognition without sacrificing the design of the Galaxy Note7. To do so, the device was equipped with a dedicated iris camera, which utilizes a special image filter to receive and recognize the reflected images of the irises with a red IR LED light.

This red light allows for the best range for iris scanning. Furthermore, unlike traditional visible (or RGB) images, which can be affected by iris color or ambient light, infrared images display clear patterns and have low light reflection.

Samsung’s proprietary technology also makes use of the light emitted from the Galaxy Note7’s display so the scanner can receive data even in low light environments.

Together, these components ensure that iris readings are accurate and speedy. In fact, iris scanning requires fewer registration trials and results in fewer false acceptances than fingerprint scanning.


I would very much like to see some testing on the false accept/false reject rate for this, as well as the speed. High-end technology, but obviously going to move down to the other top-end models soon. Will others follow suit?
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Designers come out for Apple in patent fight with Samsung • Reuters

Andrew Chung:

»Apple Inc deserved the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages Samsung Electronics Co paid for infringing patented designs of the iPhone because the product’s distinctive look drives people to purchase it, a group of design industry professionals told the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday.

Setting up a clash with a number of Silicon Valley companies that have come out on the side of Samsung, more than 100 designers and educators signed on to a new court brief supporting Apple.

They include famous fashion names Calvin Klein, Paul Smith and Alexander Wang, the industrial design director at Parsons School of Design, the design director for Bentley Motors, and Tony Chambers, the editor-in-chief of Wallpaper magazine.

Samsung has appealed to the Supreme Court part of the $548m it paid Apple last December related to a jury verdict from 2012. Samsung says the $399m of that amount that was awarded for copying the designs of the iPhone’s rounded-corner front face, bezel and grid of icons is excessive and contributed only marginally to a complex product…

…The designers on Thursday said that in the minds of consumers, the “look of the product comes to represent the underlying features, functions, and total user experience.”

Stealing a design can lead to a lost sale, and Apple deserves to be compensated for that with the infringer’s entire profits, they said.


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Why do odd numbers make people click on your story? • Medium

Andrew Watt:

»have you ever wondered why editorial teams are producing seemingly never ending listicles, especially those with an odd number?

Well, odd numbers are one of three elements which psychologists and web content studies have shown can entice a website visitor to click on a headline and visit an article.

One such study can be found in George Loewenstein’s The Psychology of Curiosity: A Review and Reinterpretation (1994), which concludes that humans are attracted to content which promises a short list of tips or insights on a subect the reader wishes to know more about or one which piques their interest.

Additionally, a meta-analysis of over 300 articles about online learning, conduced by instruction specialist Abreena Tompkins, concluded that grouping information in parcels of three or five enables readers to absorb information better.


I had thought listicles tended to range around the 10 mark, but will pay closer attention in future.
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The European making sure America’s tech giants play by the rules • Bloomberg

Adam Satariano and Aoife White interview Margrethe Vestager:

»What if the competitors’ products just aren’t as good? People don’t seem to have a problem with Google’s quality.

MV: That’s not the question. You don’t know if someone can come up with something better. Just because something is good doesn’t mean it’s the end of innovation. If it was, well then, we’d still be in horse carriages.

But isn’t there a choice? You’re investigating Google because people need to sign up for its services when they use Android. Can’t somebody download another search or e-mail app for their phone?

MV: If everything is presented to you, then your impetus to look for something new is so much smaller. Android is a very good operating system—open source. But how Android is used seems to place customers in a lot of instances on a one-way Google Street. That’s because you want an out-of-the-box experience, and even before you start thinking there is something else, you’re in a 100% Google experience.


She says as a result of her work investigating this, “I’ve become slightly more obsessed with data security and much more reluctant to give away my data.”
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The soap opera effect: when your TV tries to be smarter than you • CNET

Danny Sullivan, writing in April 2012:

»If you’re really interested in why the effect happens, it’s because soap operas (and some other television shows) are shot on video, which is cheaper than film. But shooting on video increases the number of frames displayed per second, giving them that particular look.

Many modern televisions seem to automatically create additional frames, even for filmed content. This “motion interpolation” is meant to smooth motion, which might be useful if you’re watching a fast-action sporting event. But it also effectively makes content that was shot on expensive film appear to have been recorded on cheap video. had a nice, recent article explaining this in more detail. This CNET article also explains it briefly, though it doesn’t name it as the Soap Opera Effect.

What I found remarkable is that people have been complaining about this for several years. Complaints are all over the Internet. How did I end up with a new set configured by default to show images in a way that you’d think manufacturers know plenty of people dislike. Why do I even need it at all?

My TV, I’d argue, is trying to be smarter than I am. It’s trying to smooth out “blur” and “judder” and remake the picture in a way it assumes will be better. But instead, it transforms the picture into something that feels unnatural.


I arrived at this via a Daring Fireball link, read it and worried my new TV was doing this. And then went and tried to configure it. And then, just like Sullivan goes on to explain, couldn’t find out what setting in the thicket of “picture” settings would actually be involved in this. Film? Sports mode? Who knows?
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Avoiding the census • #censusfail

»August 9 is Census night. All over Australia, families and households will huddle around laptops with poor quality internet connections to answer a series of questions that will provide a snapshot of who we are as a nation. The data collected by the census is invaluable. It provides important statistics about Australia which drive the development of evidence based government policy.

In previous years, although your name and address were collected, it was not stored. As of this year (2016) things are different — your name and address are now stored to enable future linking to other datasets. The Census has transitioned from anonymous statistics to an identifiable, personal record of every person in the country.

As per their privacy policy, the Australian Bureau of Statistics will store your name and address separate to the remainder of your Census responses, with names replaced by “anonymous linkage keys”. At this point in time, no information has been published on how these linkage keys are generated. A Freedom of Information request has been lodged to provide this information however may not be released prior to the Census taking place.


However, you can make foolish mistakes in your name spelling which will make it hard for you to be matched…
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Intel’s smartwatches are so hot right now – LITERALLY: Basis Peaks recalled for skin burns • The Register

Shaun Nichols:

»Intel has recall every single one of its Basis Peak smartwatches – and urged people to stop using them – because they can become dangerously hot.

Chipzilla has issued a notice to anyone who bought the Basis Peak, asking them to send back the watch along with any and all accessories for a full refund.

“We had hoped to update the software on your watch to address the problem. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we aren’t able to develop such a solution without completely compromising the user experience,” Intel said.

“As a result, we are asking that you return your Basis Peak watch and authorized accessories for a full refund at your earliest convenience.”

Not that anyone should have been actually using the Basis Peak, anyway. Intel issued an advisory on June 13 that customers stop wearing the watch, amidst multiple reports that it was prone to becoming so hot as to cause “burns and blisters” on the skin of those brave enough to wear it.


Brings to mind Fitbit’s recall of its Force wristband in late 2014 due to irritation and burns. Those things can get really hot.
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