Pictures like this of ocean sands off the Bahamas are available via the Landsat app. Photo by NASA Goddard 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.
How things work • Gawker
Nick Denton, two days from his 50th birthday, writes the last post on the site:
Peter Thiel has gotten away with what would otherwise be viewed as an act of petty revenge by reframing the debate on his terms. Having spent years on a secret scheme to punish Gawker’s parent company and writers for all manner of stories, Thiel has now cast himself as a billionaire privacy advocate, helping others whose intimate lives have been exposed by the press. It is canny positioning against a site that touted the salutary effects of gossip and an organization that practiced radical transparency.
As former Gawker developer Dustin Curtis says, “Though I find the result abhorrent, this is one of the most beautiful checkmates of all time by Peter Thiel.”
In cultural and business terms, this is an act of destruction, because Gawker.com was a popular and profitable digital media property—before the legal bills mounted. Gawker will be missed. But in dramatic terms, it is a fitting conclusion to this experiment in what happens when you let journalists say what they really think…
…Gawker’s remit was eventually so broad, news and gossip, that subject matter proved no barrier. And Gawker’s web-literate journalists picked up more story ideas from anonymous email tips, obscure web forums or hacker data dumps than they did from interviews or parties. They scorned access. To get an article massaged or fixed, there was nobody behind the scenes to call. Gawker was an island, one publicist said, uncompromised and uncompromising.
Best read it now: the site will be dead soon.
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Access, accountability reporting and Silicon Valley • Nieman Reports
It’s typical to see technology coverage that simply aggregates directly from a tech company’s blog—the modern-day equivalent of a press release—with little or no analysis or additional reporting. One damning example of this lack of skepticism is evident in the early, glowing coverage of Theranos, the health-technology company that said it had developed a cheap, needle-free way to draw and test blood. It wasn’t until last year that an investigative reporter from The Wall Street Journal, prompted by a sunny New Yorker profile of the Theranos founder, began to ask serious questions about whether the technology actually worked the way Theranos claimed it did. That reporting, from John Carreyrou, encouraged other reporters to be more skeptical, too, and ultimately led to a federal criminal investigation into whether the company misled investors and regulators about the state of its technology.
Investigations like Carreyrou’s—or getting inside the grueling corporate culture at Amazon, as The New York Times did last year; or detailing Google’s powerful but hidden lobbying efforts, as The Washington Post has; or contextualizing the cultural complexities of programs like Facebook’s Free Basics, as I’ve tried to do; or establishing a drumbeat of smart, in-depth coverage of the fight between Apple and the F.B.I.—is the only way to begin to understand the complex social and political impact of technology.
Technology companies “are all dedicated to revamping our daily existence,” says Streitfeld, who reported and wrote the Amazon piece for the Times with Jodi Kantor. “What happens when they succeed? Who loses? When they stumble, like Facebook in India, what does it mean? The rise of tech is, in my opinion, the great story of our time”…
…according to Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, “To actually cover technology properly,” Bell says, “it’s about society and culture and human rights. It’s about politics. This idea that you can have a Washington bureau where you don’t have somebody who really understands some of the issues in [computing] infrastructure or A.I., and how data is really political? They are new systems of power, and that’s one of the areas where I think news organizations have been slow.”
ObservedEarth on the App Store
Want to explore our constantly changing Earth through high resolution multi-spectral satellite imagery? ObservedEarth simplifies the process of obtaining, processing, and visualising earth observation data.
Tons of Landsat imagery from a public repository. More details on the website:
A range of desktop, mobile, and web applications exist that provide access to satellite imagery. ObservedEarth differs in that it makes accessible a history of observations showing how the Earth has changed over time. Watch rivers change their path, bushfire destruction, forrest regrowth, expansion of urban developments, snowfalls. Earth observation data has wide ranging applications…
…ObservedEarth downloads unprocessed satellite data which is then processed locally on the iPhone/iPad, this enables much greater flexibility in the range of visualisations that can be offered. Raw data consumed by ObservedEarth is often available within hours of the satellite passing overhead.
iOS-only at present. Looks amazing. Here’s a video of what you can get:
These charts show that Pokemon Go is already in decline • Bloomberg
Enthusiasm about the potential for Pokemon Go (and augmented reality gaming in general) to improve Nintendo Co Ltd.’s financial performance sent shares parabolic after the app launched in the U.S., and even spurred rallies in secondary plays linked to the success of the game.
Data from Sensor Tower, SurveyMonkey, and Apptopia, however, show that Pokemon Go’s daily active users, downloads, engagement, and time spent on the app per day are all well off their peaks and on a downward trend.
Source: Axiom Capital Management
Source: Axiom Capital Management
“The declining trends should assuage investor concerns about the impact of Pokémon Go on time spent on the above named companies,” writes Anthony.
If these declines prove enduring, this would cast aspersion not only on the viability and popularity of Pokemon Go, but augmented reality gaming at large, according to the analyst.
“The Google Trends data is already showing declining interest in augmented reality, whereas interest in virtual reality remains high,” he concludes.
Pokemon Go technology is not just for fun and games, survey says • Fortune
there are real business applications for similar augmented reality (AR) technology that have already proven themselves in the market. New research from consulting firm Deloitte bears this out.
Out of 500 mid-market companies surveyed, a whopping 89% said they already use augmented reality in their businesses. That may be surprising until you realize that companies like Hunter Douglas has offered an AR app for Apple devices for several years that lets you preview how a given window treatment will look in your own room before you buy it.
AR is different from virtual reality in that AR incorporates the real world into the view, while virtual reality, as enabled by products like Oculus Rift, builds an entirely new, all-immersive world.
Steve Keathley, deputy chief information officer for Deloitte said AR comes in handy for any application that requires a sneak preview of what a finished product will look like.
Android 7.0 Nougat review — do more on your gigantic smartphone • Ars Technica
Ron Amadeo with an incredibly thorough review of Nougat:
After a lengthy Developer Preview program starting in March, the final version of Android 7.0 (codenamed “Nougat”) is finally launching today. The OS update will slowly begin to rollout to devices over the next few weeks. This year, Google is adding even more form factors to the world’s most popular operating system. After tackling watches, phones, tablets, TVs, and cars, Nougat brings platform improvements aimed at virtual reality headsets and—with some help from Chrome OS—also targets laptops and desktops.
For Android’s primary platform (still phones and tablets), there’s a myriad of improvements. Nougat brings a new multitasking split screen mode, a redesigned notification panel, an adjustable UI scale, and fresh emoji. Nougat also sports numerous under-the-hood improvements, like changes to the Android Runtime, updates to the battery saving “Doze” mode, and developer goodies like Vulkan and Java 8 support.
You could skip to the final page – with the conclusions, and the observation that as nice as Nougat is for large-screened phones, most probably won’t see it. Marshmallow is a year old; about 15.2% of Android phones contacting Google Play have it. That inertia will probably get worse as the user base grows, and cheaper phones which don’t get updated are more prevalent.
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Apple acquires personal health data startup Gliimpse • Fast Company
Christina Farr and Mark Sullivan:
The acquisition will bolster Apple’s efforts in digital health. In recent years, Apple has delved into the sector with a range of services (HealthKit, CareKit, and ResearchKit) that allow patients, clinicians, and researchers to access important health and wellness data via a range of mobile devices. That’s in line with Gliimpse’s mission of uniting disparate streams of health information.
What stands out about the deal is that Gliimpse is intended for patients with diseases like cancer and diabetes. Apple recently hired a top pediatric endocrinologist who developed a HealthKit app for teens with Type 1 diabetes, signaling an increased interest in applications for chronically ill users.
It’s unlikely that this acquisition will bring Apple’s health technologies under the purview of federal regulators. CEO Tim Cook recently told Fast Company in an interview that he sees a major business opportunity for the company in the non-regulated side of health care: “So if you don’t care about reimbursement, which we have the privilege of doing, that may even make the smartphone market look small.”
The Chinese (smartphones) are coming • Bloomberg Gadfly
Just as television makers Zenith, Motorola and RCA were eventually replaced by Japanese names like Sony, Sharp and Panasonic, so too will Chinese brands overtake the US market.
The latest entrant looks set to be Xiaomi. The richly valued upstart appears ready to dip its toes in one of the world’s most important electronics markets. While China is larger by volume, the US is lucrative because average device prices are much higher.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television on Friday, Xiaomi’s vice president and international front man Hugo Barra said a US move is inevitable:
We will lead with social media, with the channels that allow us to get in touch with the young generation that are enthusiastic about new technology. We are definitely going there.
Xiaomi’s entry into the US has been in doubt on concern that the Chinese company, which has been widely criticized as a wholesale copycat of Apple and others, would immediately face intellectual property lawsuits.
However, Xiaomi’s purchase this summer of around 1,500 patents from Microsoft seems to have quelled those worries and given the Beijing startup the courage to move directly onto Apple’s home turf.
Good point about the TV sets. That is what smartphones are becoming – though more personal.
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The Note 7 still delivers embarrassing real-world performance • XDA Developers
Every year we notice the same pattern: new Galaxy device comes out, it gets positive reviews (excluding, perhaps, the Galaxy S5), and among one of the positive points, you usually find performance… somehow.
This is something that, of course, varies from publication to publication. But in general, the story is the same year after year: we see the breakdowns from the more-mainstream publications speak positively about these devices’ performance, somehow suspending the otherwise year-long notion that Samsung’s software is in dire need of a serious rework. It’s not uncommon to see the same publications, or even the same reviewers, then admit that the devices had slowed down since their review was printed, often in such tremendous ways that make us forget that advancements like project TRIM ever happened. The Galaxy Note 7 has just come out, and with Grace UX – Samsung’s thorough redesign of TouchWiz – coupled with top-of-the-line components, we would hope this trend would be reversed on both fronts — coverage and reality.
Hulse points to problems with the performance of the Note 7 after a few days’ use: “The worst hiccups and stutters – or delays – happen only every now and then, but the phone itself is simply slower than its competitors at nearly every action.”
Odd how the reviews tend not to have used it for as long. Remarkable how XDA Developers should be the site to point to this. Keep that thought.
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Samsung reminds us — again! — that you can’t make people use an app they don’t want • Recode
Samsung’s music service, which you didn’t know existed, stops existing next month.
As Variety reported earlier, Samsung will shutter Milk Music on Sept. 22. It joins Samsung’s Milk Video in the Graveyard For Samsung Media Services No One Wanted Except Samsung Executives.
It’s easy to pick on Samsung here, but they’re not the only company to overestimate the power of a distribution platform.
It’s true that you can’t get media/apps/services to customers without access to a platform. But control of the platform doesn’t mean customers are going to use your media/apps/services: They’ve got plenty of choice, and they’ll choose the ones they want.
Not forgetting Samsung’s ChatOn, closed in 1Q 2015.
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Should you charge your phone overnight? • The New York Times
in theory, any damage from charging your phone overnight with an official charger, or a trustworthy off-brand charger, should be negligible.
But the act of charging is itself bad for your phone’s battery.
Most phones make use of a technology that allows their batteries to accept more current faster. Hatem Zeine, the founder, chief scientist and chief technical officer of the wireless charging company Ossia, says the technology enables phones to adjust to the amount of charge that a charger is capable of supplying.
The technology allows power to pulse into the battery in specific modulations, increasing the speed at which the lithium ions in the battery travel from one side to the other and causing the battery to charge more quickly.
But this process also leads lithium-ion (and lithium-polymer) batteries to corrode faster than they otherwise would.
Recommendation: use a lower-power charger which will charge it less quickly. It’ll charge slower, and last longer.
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VR Noir shows how virtual reality will transform television • VentureBeat
VR Noir is a 360-degree film with interactive elements created by the Australian studio Start VR. The experience hits all the necessary beats of its namesake genre: the rumpled ex-cop P.I., the mysterious femme fatale and an even more mysterious murder to unravel. However, all of these familiar beats seem fresh and innovative in this immersive new medium.
Let’s be clear: if VR Noir was a standard television show it would not be considered that great. After watching it for myself, I’ve concluded that the performances are fine, but clearly amateur, the plot is on the flimsy side, and the twists feel lackluster. But the quality of the story and content isn’t what’s most important about this particular piece of filmmaking — it’s how it uses the technology.
As events unfold in VR Noir, you’re given agency within the narrative. You can choose to ask a client more questions, or simply take a case. You get to take control of a spy camera as you stake out a mark on a rooftop. And above all you get to experience a story as the main character, as opposed to simply watching from the sidelines. In this way, it carries forward the torch that Gone lit before it.
This nexus of interaction, immersion and narrative has the potential to become the de facto delivery system for entertainment in the future. VR Noir‘s producer, Nathan Anderson, laid out his commitment to this new style of production in an official statement accompanying the app’s release.
“We wanted to explore how film and gaming VR experiences they could live together,” Anderson said. “Can you have a cinematic experience that also allows you to have some agency in the outcome? My career quest is to find the convergence of storytelling, game design and interactivity.”
Very early days, and there must be limits to where/what you can view.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified
Charles, I don’t think the analogy between TVs and smartphones is valid. American TVs were built in the US, more expensive to produce. And inertia in production methods. This isn’t the case with smartphones which are already sourced internationally, and already operate in an international market. Chinese firms can only undercut on price by cutting their margins. But that already exists as a strategy in the US.