Start up: Note 7’s water test, Windows 10 goes holographic, the Roomba coprocopalypse, and more

When you’re their age, which apps and tech will you be using? Photo by Defence Images on Flickr.

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A selection of 13 12 links for you. Oh, they are. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Ageing out of the 25-34 bracket, one app at a time •

Lisa Pollack:

»Hardware and software previously used with enthusiasm has become an annoyance. New apps are passing me by. And this isn’t only about not downloading Pokémon Go, thus missing out on the delights of walking into lampposts while trying to catch a Pikachu (which is, I hasten to add, the only character name I know).

Consequently I’m beginning to suspect that, like a child counting the years in notches marking their height, I will increasingly count mine by the number of social media networks that I don’t understand. Already a couple of years ago, a girl I was mentoring tried to tell me about the website “”. The explanation was as arduous for me as I suspect my tutoring on simultaneous equations was for her. I still don’t entirely get it. More recently, my clumsy attempts at understanding and using Snapchat ended in befuddlement. I couldn’t even figure out how to add my contacts and yet almost 50m people have watched the Olympics on it. (In the US, by the way, the app reaches 41% of that existential-crisis-inducing 18-34 age bracket.)

This newfound tech ineptitude is particularly disturbing for someone who is, by and large, an informal tech support colleague in the office. Have a problem with a spreadsheet? Need to connect your computer to a printer? Want to know the best way to get screenshots into presentations or how smartpens work? Then chances are, you’ve emailed me.

In the last four months though, that email will have gone to the solitary computer screen on my desk. Once upon a time, I thought that having six monitors, like a trader at a bank, was the coolest thing ever. Now a second screen stands unused to the side. I’ve even reverted to having a paper to-do list where once it was all online. “When I was your age, I used to use TweetDeck!” I want to shout to selfie-posing Snapchatterers. Because then they’d realise I was once like them. Right?


link to this extract

Will iris scanner be killer app for Samsung jumbo phone? • Korea Times

Kim Tae-gyu:

»People will be able to send money on Samsung Electronics’ new cell phone by just looking at it.

Korea’s major lenders said Tuesday that they are working on biometrics-based authentication, which would be enabled by an iris-scanning option built into the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 that will be released later this week.

The iris scanning-powered Samsung Pass will let customers of Woori, Shinhan and KEB Hana banks carry out mobile-banking transactions with the new phone.

The mobile giant seems to be confident about the success of the new feature.

“Samsung Pass service will simplify the complicated process of authentication,” Samsung’s mobile chief Koh Dong-jin said last week during a media event. “It is the safest security technology at the current level.”


Iris scans look like a very promising technology – where’s the research on it, though? If Apple had done this we’d have had a million articles examining how robust or otherwise it is.
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Twitter and YouTube would not remove Anjem Choudary’s posts, court told • The Guardian

Press Association:

»Social media giants had the last word on Anjem Choudary’s online posts, even after he was arrested for inviting support for Islamic State.

British authorities made repeated efforts to get his Twitter posts and YouTube videos taken down after an oath of allegiance to the Caliphate surfaced online with the preacher’s name on it, jurors at the Old Bailey were told during his trial in July.

But they had no power to force corporations to remove material from the internet even if it was believed to have fallen foul of UK anti-terror laws.

The preacher was found guilty in July of supporting Islamic State but details of the trial, including the verdict, could not be reported until now.

An open-source researcher from the National Counter Terrorism Police Operations Centre (NCTPOC) told the trial of a series of failed attempts.

The officer, identified only by a number, said in a statement read to court that it was up to the companies whether or not to take down posts and videos as “the police do not have the capability to remove any material from any platform”.


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WikiLeaks released a cache of malware in its latest email dump • Engadget

Andrew Dalton:

»In its rush to let information be free, WikiLeaks has released over 80 different malware variants while publishing its latest collection of emails from Turkey’s ruling AKP political party. In a Github post, security expert Vesselin Bontchev has laid out many of the instances of malicious links, most of which came from “run-of-the-mill” spam and phishing emails found in the dump. While WikiLeaks has claimed the emails shed light on corruption within the Turkish government, New York Times reporter Zeynep Tufekci has pointed out that the materials have little to do with Turkish politics and mostly appear to be mailing lists and spam.


“In its rush to let information be free”, or perhaps “With disregard for innocent people who would be affected”.
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All Windows 10 PCs will get Windows Holographic access next year • TechCrunch

Darrell Etherington:

»Windows 10 users will be able to dive into mixed reality starting next year, with an update planned that can let any “mainstream” Windows 10 PC run the Windows Holographic shell the company first revealed in January 2015.

The update will allow users to multi-task in mixed reality environments, which combine traditional 2D Windows 10 apps with immersive, 3D graphical environments. These will be enabled via a range of “6 degrees of freedom devices,” input devices that add positional tracking to other more traditional forms of input, like clicking and pointing.

The Windows team is trying to make this more broadly available, too, thanks to support for a range of Windows 10 PCs that don’t necessarily need the specs required to run full-scale VR today. As an example, Microsoft presented a video of Windows 10 Holographic running at 90 FPS on an Intel NUC, a tiny desktop PC that’s not super expensive and included integrated Intel graphics.


Useful? Useless? Probably the latter for a huge number of users. How many will ever use it?
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Roomba creator responds to reports of ‘poopocalypse’: ‘We see this a lot’ • The Guardian

Olivia Solon on people who come home to find their robot vacuum cleaner has been spreading poo around the house:

»Los Angeles marine biologist Jonathan Williams endured a similar trauma. It’s happened three times in the past few months, ever since his family moved to a house with their pug, Alice.

The first time it happened he came back from work to find “tread-marks of caked-in poop all over the house”.

The next two times were much worse. “It’s almost like [Alice the pug] deliberately left it right in front of its path at the start of the cycle.”

The last time it happened, Alice had been out in the morning and evacuated her bowels, lulling Williams and his wife into a false sense of security. “We thought it was safe and we could run it, but it seems like she was storing some up for us.”

“Quite honestly, we see this a lot,” said a spokesman from iRobot, the company that makes the Roomba.

“We generally tell people to try not to schedule your vacuum if you know you have dogs that may create such a mess. With animals anything can happen.”

Are there any plans to introduce any poop detection technology to the product? “Our engineers are always trying to figure out ways to help people with their problems, and we’ve known this is an issue people deal with.”


“We see this a lot”? How “a lot” is that?
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Ed Snowden explains why hackers published NSA’s hacking tools • Techdirt

Mike Masnick with the details around a hack of a server holding some NSA malware:

»What’s new? NSA malware staging servers getting hacked by a rival is not new. A rival publicly demonstrating they have done so is.

Why did they do it? No one knows, but I suspect this is more diplomacy than intelligence, related to the escalation around the DNC hack. Circumstantial evidence and conventional wisdom indicates Russian responsibility. Here’s why that is significant: This leak is likely a warning that someone can prove US responsibility for any attacks that originated from this malware server. That could have significant foreign policy consequences. Particularly if any of those operations targeted US allies. Particularly if any of those operations targeted elections. Accordingly, this may be an effort to influence the calculus of decision-makers wondering how sharply to respond to the DNC hacks.

TL;DR: This leak looks like a somebody sending a message that an escalation in the attribution game could get messy fast.


Subtle; and the timing of the revelation, done in a way to bring attention, is notable too.
link to this extract

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 review: the best new Android phone • WSJ

Joanna Stern:

»While touring an apartment that I’m considering, I chose to snap photos and video of the space with the Note 7 instead of my iPhone 6s. Like the S7 and S7 Edge, the low-light photos are sharper and clearer than Apple’s. Even shots taken outdoors or in well-lit environments are more exciting to review on the Note because of the crisper display. And there are no storage fears here. The Note 7 comes with 64GB of local storage—and has a MicroSD slot that will support cards up to 256GB.


Stern’s review is terrific – she wrote the whole thing with the S-Pen stylus, she took Samsung’s “it’s waterproof!” at its word and made videos underwater with it (it worked fine), she points to the odd problem of differentiating between the S7, S7 Edge and Note7 (basic, edge screen, stylus). And TouchWiz isn’t as awful as it used to be. It’s an excellent response to the otherwise tedious task of reviewing hardware.

Samsung owns the top end of Android. The iPhone 7 (or whatever it’s called) will need something special in the photo space.
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Final words – the Samsung Galaxy Note7 (S820) review • Anandtech

Joshua Ho wraps up his (long) review:

»With all of this said I think the Note7 is fairly checkered. I’m sure there are people that are foaming at the mouth to buy one because it’s the only phablet on the market that really does a stylus well and if you’re someone that wants the Note7 for the stylus then you should stop reading now and go buy one immediately because everything else on the market won’t meet your needs. If the stylus is just something that’s nice for you to have then the calculus gets much more difficult. The Galaxy S7 edge is currently about $750 and you can easily find people reselling new ones for any operator or international variants on Amazon for $600 or so. The Note7 does appreciably improve on the Galaxy S7 Edge, but it’s basically the S7 edge in a new package and with an S-Pen. You also get an extra 32 GB of storage which does justify the extra $100 that bumps the Note7 up to $850.

With all of that said, I get the distinct sense that it will be much harder to justify the price well before the end of this year. The camera quality is kind of a disappointment given all of the hype at the launch of the Galaxy S7 given the dual pixel sensor and larger 1.4 micron pixels when the camera quality itself is not really an improvement over the Galaxy Note5 and is beaten out by the HTC 10. The software experience still shows dropped frames. There are still software features that feel like obvious gimmicks. The design is still lacking ID [industrial design] detailing. I’m sure other people will praise this device anyways but when a phone is this expensive and with smartphones in general getting polished to a mirror sheen each scratch becomes more obvious no matter how minor.

A lot of things are going to seem like nitpicks but the whole point of paying 400 USD more is so that the ID and engineering in both hardware and software bridges the last mile. Again, this is still a good phone and it really is as good as it gets for now, but with so many fall launches coming up I find it very hard to whole-heartedly recommend this phone.


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The duo that dominates dressage • The New Yorker

Sam Knight:

»The piaffe is probably the most demanding and exquisite movement in the Olympic sport of dressage. A horse in piaffe defies what horses otherwise do. Instead of going anywhere, it jogs on the spot, three-quarters of a ton of moving muscle, feet rising and falling in the same four hoofprints like an animation in a flip book. Next week, in Rio de Janeiro, seven judges around an arena, known as a manège, will evaluate the piaffes of the four-day dressage competition. In addition to making sure that the horses don’t go forward or backward, or side to side, the judges will keep track of the number of steps (twelve to fifteen), their height (as high as the cannon bone on the foreleg; as high as the fetlock on the rear), and insure that they are not, in the somewhat baroque language of the sport, “unlevel.” Then they will score each piaffe out of ten.

No one knows what piaffing is for. The movements of dressage are said to have their origins in the training of horses for war, and one theory suggests that the piaffe might have been useful for trampling enemies.


This is deeply researched, beautifully written work which takes you through all the human emotion of the story (and there’s plenty) and informs you about it. You can see Charlotte Dujardin’s winning Olympic freestyle routine; the reaction of most people is “how does the horse know what to do? She’s just sitting there.” Which shows you how subtle sport can be.
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Chromebook Market Size, Share – Industry Report, 2023 • Global Market Insights

»Chromebook market size was estimated to witness 5.3m unit sales in 2014 and is anticipated to exceed 17m units by 2023. Education sector alone accumulated 72% of the overall industry share in 2014. Growing demand for these systems in education sector is likely to drive the industry growth over the forecast period.

As of 2014, North America accounted for 84% of the overall industry share which was numbered at 4.8m units. The US Chromebook market was the largest single shareholder, with over 60% demand from the education sector. Other business accounted for 1.1% share and consumers accounted for 38.6% Chromebook market share in the region…

…EMEA [Europe, Middle East, Africa] chromebook market share contributed only 11% of the overall revenue in 2014 that accounted for 620,000 units out of which 72.3% were accounted for by the education sector, 26.8 % by consumers and other business accounted for 0.9% of the overall EMEA industry. Asia Pacific region along with Japan accounted for 146,000 units in 2014.

Key industry participants chromebook industry include Dell, Lenovo, Toshiba, Acer, HP and Samsung among others.


The clunky grammar (“estimated to witness”?) suggests this emanates from Asia, but the supply chain insights might be right for the present. That figure for 2023 seems low, though, if they achieve any significant inroads into the education market.
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Image completion with deep learning in Tensorflow • Github

Brandon Amos:

»Content-aware fill is a powerful tool designers and photographers use to fill in unwanted or missing parts of images. Image completion and inpainting are closely related technologies used to fill in missing or corrupted parts of images. There are many ways to do content-aware fill, image completion, and inpainting. In this blog post, I present Raymond Yeh and Chen Chen et al.’s paper “Semantic Image Inpainting with Perceptual and Contextual Losses,” which was just posted on arXiv on July 26, 2016. This paper shows how to use deep learning for image completion with a DCGAN. This blog post is meant for a general technical audience with some deeper portions for people with a machine learning background. I’ve added [ML-Heavy] tags to sections to indicate that the section can be skipped if you don’t want too many details. We will only look at the constrained case of completing missing pixels from images of faces. I have released all of the TensorFlow source code behind this post on GitHub at bamos/dcgan-completion.tensorflow.

We’ll approach image completion in three steps.

• We’ll first interpret images as being samples from a probability distribution.
• This interpretation lets us learn how to generate fake images.
• Then we’ll find the best fake image for completion.


This is a very technical paper – but you can just zoom through it and look at the pictures, which are amazing: we’re already getting machine leaning systems which are able to fake pictures. What happens as they get better, and come into the hands of people who are motivated to fake pictures?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified I did include a link from Wired quoting a company called Rantic. Turns out they’re infamous marketing hoaxers; I’ve come across a few companies like that. I’m contacting Wired to suggest it removes the story too.

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