Start up: sex toy + IoT = lawsuit, the CGI girl, Samsung’s Note charge fix, iOS 10 in depth, and more


Turns out you really shouldn’t make phone calls using your left hand. There’s science and everything. Photo by Viewminder on Flickr.

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A selection of 13 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Sex toys and the Internet of Things collide—what could go wrong? • Ars Technica

David Kravets:

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It was only a matter of time before the Internet of Things caught up with sex toys and led to products like apps that remotely control vibrators from an Apple or Android device via a Bluetooth connection.

And now, one of those apps is accused of being a little too connected to its users.

Standard Innovation—the maker of the We-Vibe vibrator and accompanying app—is the subject of a federal privacy lawsuit. The suit, which seeks class-action status, claims the We-Vibe vibrator app chronicles how often and how long consumers use the sex toy and sends that data to the company’s Canadian servers. The suit says that the app also monitors “the selected vibration settings,” the vibrator’s battery life, and the vibrator’s “temperature” with consumer consent. The data, along with the person’s e-mail address, is stored on the vibrator-maker’s Canadian servers, according to the lawsuit. (PDF)

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What. The. Actual.
link to this extract


This girl isn’t real, and it’s proof that CGI isn’t creepy anymore

Juan Buis:

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Japanese artists Teruyuki Ishikawa & Yuka Ishikawa — otherwise known as Telyuka — started a project in 2015 to create an extremely realistic computer-generated schoolgirl. Her name is Saya, and she has been improved on since then.

This is the 2016 version:

And now 2015:

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It is quite weird. Only static photos – but very convincing ones.

link to this extract


The cost of scaling… • OUseful.Info, the blog…

Tony Hirst picked up on a former Google Reader product manager’s Twitter musings on how he had failed to get it to “Google scale” – that is, 100 million users:

»

As a service, Google Reader allowed users to curate their own long form content stream by subscribing to web feeds (RSS, Atom). When it shut down, I moved my subscriptions over to feedly.com, where I still read them every day.

If, as the [Twitter] thread above suggests, Google isn’t interested in “free”, “public” services with less than 100m – 100 million – active users, it means that “useful for some”, even if that “some” counts in the tens of millions, just won’t cut it.

Such are the economics of scale, I guess…

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link to this extract


Adblock Plus finds the end-game of its business model: selling ads • Ars Technica

Joe Mullin:

»

Eyeo GmbH, the company that makes the popular Adblock Plus software, will today start selling the very thing many of its users hate—advertisements. Today, the company is launching a self-service platform to sell “pre-whitelisted” ads that meet its “acceptable ads” criteria. The new system will let online publishers drag and drop advertisements that meet Eyeo’s expectations for size and labeling.

“The Acceptable Ads Platform helps publishers who want to show an alternative, nonintrusive ad experience to users with ad blockers by providing them with a tool that lets them implement Acceptable Ads themselves,” said Till Faida, co-founder of Adblock Plus.

Publishers who place the ads will do so knowing that they won’t be blocked by most of the 100 million Adblock Plus users. The software extension’s default setting allows for “acceptable ads” to be shown, and more than 90% of its users don’t change that default setting.

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Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
link to this extract


Someone is learning how to take down the internet • Schneier on Security

Bruce Schneier:

»

Recently, some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the Internet work have seen an increase in DDoS attacks against them. Moreover, they have seen a certain profile of attacks. These attacks are significantly larger than the ones they’re used to seeing. They last longer. They’re more sophisticated. And they look like probing. One week, the attack would start at a particular level of attack and slowly ramp up before stopping. The next week, it would start at that higher point and continue. And so on, along those lines, as if the attacker were looking for the exact point of failure.

The attacks are also configured in such a way as to see what the company’s total defenses are. There are many different ways to launch a DDoS attacks. The more attack vectors you employ simultaneously, the more different defenses the defender has to counter with. These companies are seeing more attacks using three or four different vectors. This means that the companies have to use everything they’ve got to defend themselves. They can’t hold anything back. They’re forced to demonstrate their defense capabilities for the attacker.

I am unable to give details, because these companies spoke with me under condition of anonymity.

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If Bruce is concerned, we all should be concerned.
link to this extract


British AI start-up Weave becomes Silicon Valley target • FT.com

Madhumita Murgia:

»

Silicon Valley is once again raiding British expertise in artificial intelligence, with early stage start-up Weave.ai the latest target of takeover talks for US tech groups.

Founded last year in London, Weave.ai has only eight employees and has raised just $200,000 to date, from seed investors including start-up accelerator Techstars. Its team includes four AI engineers, whose goal is to build a system that makes smartphone assistants like Siri or Google Assistant more human-like.

British AI talent has been particularly attractive to the world’s biggest companies, including Google, Microsoft and Apple. In 2014, Google paid $400m for DeepMind, a London start-up that did not have a product for sale at the time, but is now arguably a world leader in AI, with a team of more than 250 academic experts. Last year, Apple acquired UK-based speech technology start-up VocalIQ.

Microsoft paid $250m in February this year for Swiftkey, the London-based maker of a predictive keyboard. In June, Twitter paid $150m to acquire London-based Magic Pony, a 14-person start-up that had only raised seed funding.

Weave.ai is in discussions with “multiple parties” on the US west coast to close a deal imminently, according to sources close to the talks.

Last year, Weave, which is still in undercover “stealth” mode, demonstrated a beta service that could analyse messages on a smartphone and provide contextual assistance. For instance, a tweet about the Age of Ultron film brought up links to buy tickets at a cinema chain and information about the film — very similar to Google’s Now on Tap feature.

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link to this extract


Why Apple needed 10 days to respond to the Pegasus hack • Fortune

Jeff John Roberts:

»

Apple has a terrific reputation when it comes to security. That’s why it was such a shock to learn last month that hackers found a way to break in to the company’s famous iPhones, and even take over the camera and microphone features without a user even knowing it.

Apple released a software patch on Aug. 25 that users could download to protect their iPhones from the sinister spyware known as “Pegasus.” The patch process, however, took the company a full 10 days to finish after security researchers tipped off the company about the problem. Given the gravity of the situation, did Apple drag its feet?

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Whaaaaat?? Only someone with no knowledge of programming, security or quality assurance could honestly write a sentence like that. To find, fix, verify and roll out a patch for a system vulnerability in that time strikes me as impressive – but then again, that’s just my impression. It can take me a day to debug a few lines of code.

But guess what? The piece doesn’t ask how quickly other phone platforms have reacted to similar infiltrations, never even whether those have been spotted. How has Android fared with Stagefright? Have there been vulnerabilities for Windows Phone or BB10? You’ll never find out from pieces like this.
link to this extract


Samsung’s quick fix for Galaxy Note 7 is no full recharge • Associated Press

Youkyung Lee:

»

Samsung plans to issue a software update for its recalled Galaxy Note 7 smartphones that will prevent them from overheating by limiting battery recharges to 60%.

The front page of the Seoul Shinmun, a South Korean newspaper, carried a Samsung advertisement on Tuesday announcing the software update for any users of the Note 7 who may be disregarding its recall notice and continuing to use the smartphone.

“It is a measure to put consumer safety first but we apologize for causing inconvenience,” the advertisement by Samsung Electronics said. The update for South Korean users will start Sept. 20, it said.

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And Bloomberg has the cause of the problem:

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The Korean company outlined the preliminary findings in a report to the country’s technology standards agency that hasn’t previously been released. Initial conclusions indicate an error in production that placed pressure on plates contained within battery cells. That in turn brought negative and positive poles into contact, triggering excessive heat. Samsung however stressed that it needed to carry out a more thorough analysis to determine “the exact cause” of battery damage.

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link to this extract


A Galaxy Note 7 didn’t explode in a child’s hands after all • AndroidAuthority

Jimmy Westenberg on the story from the weekend about an injury caused by an exploding phone:

»

As it turns out, that exploding smartphone wasn’t a Galaxy Note 7 after all – it was a Samsung Galaxy Core Prime. In an interview with NBC New York, John Lewis, the six-year-old boy’s grandfather, said the entire family has Samsung phones and initially told reporters the exploding phone was, in fact, a Galaxy Note 7. The boy’s mother later clarified that the exploding phone was a Galaxy Core Prime, not the recalled Note 7.

This certainly isn’t good news for Samsung, nor does it take away what happened to the Lewis family. Still, this is an important detail. The Galaxy Core Prime has a removable battery and basically no history of battery problems. And while all the details are still trickling in, it’s important to note that there seems to be no relation between the exploding Galaxy Core Prime and the Note 7.

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What’s not clear is whether this is good or bad news for Samsung. It’s still a Samsung phone that burnt someone. But was it a Samsung battery?

Even if it wasn’t, the Note 7 has (it turns out) had more than 70 “overheating” incidents in the US alone. This is more than a trivial recall.

Edgy element to all this is that Apple has used Samsung’s SDI subsidiary for some batteries. And SDI made the Note 7 batteries. If.. well, let’s just wait and see.
link to this extract


iOS 10: the Pixel Envy review • Pixel Envy

Nick Heer:

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Let’s get something out of the way upfront: iOS 10 is a big release. It’s not big in an iOS 7 way, with a full-system redesign, nor does it introduce quite so many new APIs and features for developers as iOS 8 did. But it’s a terrific combination of those two sides of the spectrum, with a bunch of bug fixes tossed in for some zest.

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This is a very, very thorough review. One to read while your device downloads and updates, perhaps.
link to this extract


Poking at Apple’s updated Photos app • WriteKay

Kay Yin:

»

Photos app recognises and distinguishes the following 7 facial expressions. Expressions are distinguished after forming a “faceprint”. These distinction are used for searching. They are also rated and indexed for generation Memories and montages.

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Greedy, Disgust, Neutral, Scream, Smiling, Surprise, Suspicious

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Photos app will generate Memories that falls within the following 33 categories. Default name of the memory will be automatically generated using metadata from the photos and tags from analysis of photos.

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Memories from areas of interest, Best of past memories, Memories that break out of routine, Celebration in history, Contextual memories, Crowd, Day in history, Holiday in history, Location of interest, Nearby, New contextual memories, New memories, Person’s Birthdays, Person’s memories, Recent events (calendar, crowd, holiday, people, person, social, trip, weekend), Region of interest, Social group memories, Sometime memories, Special memories, Favourited, Trips, Week in history, Weekend, Year summary, Last week, Last Weekend

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Photos app supports detecting 4,432 different scenes and objects. These scenes or objects can be searched for in all languages.

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Put like that, not bad.
link to this extract


Your smartphone performs better in one hand than the other • Quartz

Akshat Rathi:

»

If you’ve got an iPhone, you’re likely to get better reception if you hold it in your right hand (and right ear) during a call. That’s the conclusion of a report (pdf), commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers, that analyzed how effectively different smartphones caught and sent radio signals.

To many of us, our black slabs are nothing but magical devices. They catch and send invisible signals, let us browse the internet and keep in touch with our friends and family. The radio signals that enable these devices to work wirelessly are caught and sent by antennas which, in the modern incarnation of smartphones, have been hidden inside the body.

However, hiding them inside comes with a usability cost. The users of these smartphones have no idea where the antenna is and thus they cannot knowingly keep it clear of obstructions. Phone companies won’t always reveal where they are and taking one apart doesn’t help, because each manufacturer puts the antenna in a different place. The result is that holding your phone in a certain hand can have a large impact on how effectively your phone’s antenna works.

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The report makes interesting reading, and also looks at how good various phones and tablets are for data downloads. Overall the message seems to be: use headphones to make your phone call. Now, wired or wireless headphones..?
link to this extract


Turn off location services? Go ahead, says Google, we’ll still track you • The Register

Kieren McCarthy:

»

Google, it seems, is very, very interested in knowing where you are at all times.

Users have been reporting battery life issues with the latest Android build, with many pointing the finger at Google Play – Google’s app store – and its persistent, almost obsessive need to check where you are.

It’s not clear why Google would insist on its app store having constant access to your location, but the company is very determined about it. Following reports earlier this year that the Google Play app was interfering with other apps’ ability to use GPS, Google has updated the software and now makes it impossible to turn off location tracking.

The same is true of Google Maps. Although it makes far more sense for Maps to have access to your location, the latest build doesn’t give you the option of turning it off. To do that, you have to turn off GPS on your phone altogether.

In effect, if you use either of Google’s two most popular apps – which come pre-loaded with Google’s flavor of Android – the company has permanent access to your location.

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link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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