Start up: Note 7’s slow recall, HP v refills, here come the ad police!, AirPods pro and anti, and more

Removing the headphone jack didn’t hurt sales in 2003. Photo by yuankuei on Flickr.

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A selection of 13 links for you. Please enable your ad blocker, or something. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Fewer than 15% of the 1m US Galaxy Note 7 phones have been returned • Recode

Ina Fried:


Despite the risk of fire or explosion, the vast majority of Samsung Galaxy Note 7 owners in the US have been holding on to their devices.

Only about 130,000 units have so far been returned as part of an exchange program that Samsung kicked off nearly two weeks ago. On Thursday the company formally recalled the device in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency charged with overseeing safety-related product issues.


Probably because they simply haven’t heard about it. Most people (one forgets) aren’t that interested in tech news.
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Remember that time Nintendo got rid of the headphone jack? • Ars Technica

Kyle Orland:


A leading technology company announces the next in its successful and long-standing line of handheld hardware. The new update sports plenty of long-awaited features, including an improved screen and a better battery. But it also includes one major omission: the standard 3.5mm headphone jack, which had been included on all of its portable products until this point, has been replaced by a proprietary standard. Many in the press are livid, and consumers largely react with confusion, but many shrug it off and decide to buy the product anyway.


But that was 2003. How do you expect anyone to remember that far back? (Ars does a nice job finding examples of “outrage” from the time.)
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HP allegedly time bombs unofficial ink cartridges from working in its printers • Hot Hardware

Brandon Jill:


HP… is allegedly using a rather destructive method to prevent customers from using remanufactured ink cartridges. The company reportedly preprogrammed a date into its printers to display a message informing customers that their non-genuine ink cartridges were damaged. Specifically, the message reads:

Cartridge Problem. The following ink cartridges appears to be missing or damaged. Replace the ink cartridges to resume printing.

If the objective is to get people to abandon the use of non-genuine/remanufactured ink cartridges, HP could have a used a subtler approach. Instead of using a randomly generated date to “fake” a failure, HP choose preprogrammed September 13th into the most recent firmware updates for its printers. So on that date, scores of HP customers at the same time began complaining about the same problem. Nice.

Because of this sudden influx of complaints, it didn’t take long to trace the “failures” to a HP firmware update that was released during the spring. HP’s support forums are flooded with complaints from customers that have received the warning and at least one reseller of remanufactured cartridges was also inundated with its own customer complaints.


The forum link supports it, but this story seems to have happened repeatedly over the years. (It feels like a rewrite, too.)
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Google and 16 other companies have formed a coalition that wants to police ads on the web • Business Insider

Lara O’Reilly:


“The Coalition for Better Ads” was announced on Thursday at digital advertising trade show Dmexco in Cologne, Germany.

The Coalition was formed as a direct response to the rise of ad blocking, and will act as a kind of regulator for internet ads.

The group has been put together to create global standards for online advertising, which will be deployed using technology created by the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau)’s Tech Lab. The technology will essentially score ads based on a number of criteria — such as page load time, the number of tracking pixels, and the type of creative — with only ads that meet a certain threshold making it through to the web page of participating companies.


Won’t make any difference, because people aren’t driven to block ads by the lovely fast-loading ads they encounter – it’s the other 90% of ads. And those won’t want to be controlled by these companies.
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Asenqua Ventures: the venture capital firm that wasn’t there • Fortune

Dan Primack does some great digging:


After [Albert] Hu’s trial [in which he was convicted of fraud], Asenqua Ventures seemed to disappear. Its website went offline, and its various business entities dissipated, per records at the California Secretary of State’s office.

But then, in the summer of 2015, reemerged, claiming to represent two entities:

• Asenqua Ventures, a “private equity merchant banking firm focused on early stage and middle market opportunities.”
• Asenqua Financial Advisors Inc, which “can support a diverse array of financial engagements, including mergers and acquisitions, leveraged buyouts, restructurings, recapitalizations and capital formation.”

There was no more mention of Albert Hu, but the website’s “team” page was full of people with impressive-looking resumes. For example, managing director Peter Arnold “spent 23 years as an Investment Banker/Venture Capitalist, where he was instrumental in the development of over 200 businesses with early-stage funding in excess of $2 billion dollars.” Fellow managing director Bob Lin had been “responsible for the financial management of over 6,000 IBM ibm software developers and responsible for over $500 million in annual company revenues.”

Moreover, Arnold had a LinkedIn profile claiming that he had spent nearly six years as a managing director with New York-based investment giant BlackRock BLK .

None of this, however, holds up.


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OverhypedPods • Medium

Nati Shochat isn’t impressed by the AirPods. Sure, he says, they have:


• Pairing — an easy way to pair the headphones (which also uses the cloud to propagate the pairing to other related devices).
• Connectivity — improved connectivity over regular Bluetooth.
• Ease of use when switching between devices.
• Battery life — Longer battery life than regular Bluetooth headsets of that size.

These capabilities are not to be dismissed as nothing else but true engineering innovations. But also they are not making the AirPods a platform, or the next computing devices. Yet.

Further more, Bluetooth headsets have been around for more than a decade, so they are nothing new about the notion of using a wireless headset to make calls, or even listen to music. Also tapping into Siri with wireless headsets has been available for a few years now, with a (long) press of a button. So the fact that with the AirPods a user can double tap the headphone and trigger Siri is not a new feature. Perhaps a new UI.

Yes, you can grab almost any Bluetooth headsets connect them to an iPhone or an iPad and long press the main button, to trigger Siri. Perhaps the sound quality will be different (for better or worse), perhaps the comfort levels will not be similar (again for better or for worse), but AirPods don’t bring any new capabilities to the world. They only enhance and improve the current ones.


Compare and contrast with the following.
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Why Silicon Valley is all wrong about Apple’s AirPods • Medium

Chris Messina:


Apple began the journey of promoting user acceptance of technology apparatuses as fashion accessories with the introduction of the iPod in 2001, fifteen years ago.

You can hear it when Jobs explains why he decided to pursue music in the first place: he knew it was universal and represented a huge addressable market in which there was no market leader. He also knew that everyone loved music, and that their personal, emotional relationships with music would give him the opening he needed to send in the  ᴛʀᴏᴊᴀɴ ʜᴏʀsᴇ to permeate their lives for a generation.

And now, by exploiting that same relationship, Apple is doing it again: offering a sexy fashion statement, an expensive luxury item, an entertainment accessory, which will usher in the era of voice-controlled intimate computing. Apple won’t sell the AirPods by enumerating their tech specs but by evoking an emotional, aspirational response — which is an approach vividly different from nearly anything else that comes out Silicon Valley’s burgeoning nerdtopia.


In my experience – so far – people outside tech are interested in AirPods in a way that they absolutely aren’t about Bluetooth headphones.
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Half of US smartphone users download zero apps per month • Recode

Dan Frommer:


Specifically, some 49% of U.S. smartphone users download zero apps in a typical month, according to comScore, reflecting a three-month average period ending this past June.

Of the 51% of smartphone owners who do download apps during the course of a month, “the average number downloaded per person is 3.5,” comScore’s report says. “However, the total number of app downloads is highly concentrated at the top, with 13% of smartphone owners accounting for more than half of all download activity in a given month.”

Do these concepts sound familiar? That’s because comScore has been banging this drum for a while. Two years ago, a similar study found that almost two-thirds of US smartphone owners downloaded zero apps in a typical month. So this year’s 49% suggests an improvement.

What’s the deal? ComScore’s Andrew Lipsman says it’s more a reflection that his company has improved its methodology since then — rather than any drastic changes in the app economy — so it’s not fair to compare the two surveys apples-to-apples.


One point: if you download an app in one month, then you have the app. You don’t need to re-download it the next month. (That’s rather different from, say, Google searches on mobile: it needs a constant flow of those.)

What would be more useful would be the percentage of users who download 1, 2, 3, 4 apps over the course of a year or two years – because that’s probably the life of the device. That’s probably pretty high.
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iOS 10 is a major shift for iOS • The Brooks Review

Ben Brooks:


Let’s take a normal scenario to see how iOS changes things. My wife and I have been looking at houses on Zillow. Typically, for me, that means [in iOS 9] a lot of copy and pasting, or other hijinks to get a satellite view from Apple Maps (I can do it in the app, but I like to see images hopefully taken at different times — I’m odd like that, but I have reasons). It’s even worse when I wanted to drive by these places because I would constantly be switching apps and pasting in addresses.

With iOS 10 this changes a lot, now Maps knows what house and address I have been looking at, and it prompts me to use that address in Maps. Now the workflow is: look at house in Zillow, move to Maps, and tap the address suggested. No copying and pasting, it just is there, and there without Zillow being updated for iOS 10.

It was also crazy that the fastest way to get directions to the next event on your calendar, was by tapping the location field in Calendar, not from within Maps — completely counter intuitive. Under iOS 10, this again changes, now Maps knows that the location is on the calendar, is your next event, and puts the address one tap away inside of Maps — where it should have been the entire time.

There’s a lot of little things like this, because for once iOS knows what the other hand is doing and it’s about time. This is one of the biggest reasons why I say that iOS 10 is going to be a tipping point — because now iOS has tangible usability benefits over macOS. Limited still, yes, but significantly better in many ways also.


I hadn’t noticed that (yet) in iOS 10, and of course the next Mac OSX update (to become MacOS) brings some more cross-platform integration (such as the clipboard, and Apple Watch unlock). But iOS is definitely getting things Mac OS isn’t.
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Raw Data becomes first VR title to hit $1M in a month • Gamasutra

Chris Kerr:


Vive-exclusive sci-fi shooter Raw Data has become the first virtual reality game to hit $1m in sales in the space of a month.

Developer Survios made the claim in an interview with Fast Company, and said at least 20% of HTC Vive owners have purchased the action title. 

Earlier this year, Raw Data also became the first VR release to top the overall Steam charts, although its stay at the summit was brief. 

The game currently retails for $39.99 on Steam – though it was launched at a discounted $31.99 –  and Survios believes the game’s success is rooted in the VR market’s “need” for a true triple-A experience. 


Daniel Ahmad reckons this means the HTC Vive install base is under 150,000 units.

($1m/$32 = 31,250; $1m/40 = 25,000; if the larger number represents 20% of HTC Vive units, there are 156,250 Vive units in all. If it’s a larger percentage, there are fewer Vive units – down to 25,000 at the minimum.

However we had a figure of “approaching 100,000” back in July, so this feels consistent. If it’s gone from 100,000 to 150,000 in three months, that seems like solid growth.
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Facebook Video leaves a small window for advertisers • The Information

Tom Dota:


Most video ads on Facebook are seen for only a second or two, according to a new study, well below the average for video ads on YouTube and other websites. It suggests few people on Facebook are clicking on video ads as they scroll past them in their News Feed.

The data provides further evidence to advertisers who want to use Facebook that they have to come up with specially designed ads that can capture people’s attention quicker than the standard TV spot. As Facebook makes a hard push for more TV ad dollars, it also could be used by advertisers as a cudgel in pricing negotiations.  

The study found that little more than 30% of video ads on Facebook met the industry standard of a “viewable” ad, one that is played for two seconds or more with at least half the video in view, said a person familiar with the study. On YouTube, more than 70% of ads are deemed viewable…

…A spokesman for Facebook said the [Media Ratings Council] standards for viewability are designed for desktops and don’t accurately assess the the News Feed format. “Within a mobile feed, research shows that value can be created within the first second, much sooner than the MRC mobile guidelines suggest,” the spokesman said in an email. He pointed to data that shows an ad can have impact with as little as one-quarter of a second.


That bar for viewability is set so low it should be in the finals of the world limbo championships. How sustainable are video ads on Facebook going to be with that sort of criterion?
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Setting up a new iPhone — it just does not work • Medium

Ouriel Ohayon:


Restoring all your apps take a good one hour at minimum because they need to be re-downloaded. In my case (have a lot of apps) it will take a few hours.

Some of those apps (eg Spotify, Downcast for podcasts, Audible…) have content to be downloaded for offline consumption. iTunes and iCloud backup don’t include those (it would cost me a lot of icloud $) and iTunes back up does not include those. So there you go, you need to download again each app the content. One by One.

Then if you have an Apple watch, you need to unpair it from the old phone, then reset the watch, and pair again the Watch (a good 30 min). Even John Gruber (ZE Apple expert) screwed up in this.

Then you need to reset Apple pay and all your cards, on your iPhone and your watch.

Then you have for certain apps to go through the 2 key authentication process again (payment apps, bank apps).

Reset 2 key authentication for all services you are already using (a real pain in the b…). Certain apps just need sign in again like Google Apps and of course Authenticator. Reset of 1password (if sync with Dropbox). Then for Communication apps (Viber..) you need to reset your account to your new Phone (even with the same line).


(Odd he doesn’t mention doing a restore from iTunes – though I understand some people detest iTunes. But you could, you know, just use it for setting up your phone. It won’t reach out and kill you.)

Setting up a new iPhone from an iCloud backup (if you’re not going down the iTunes route) is like Churchill’s description of democracy – the worst, except for all the others. Has Ohayon ever tried setting up a new Android phone? The experience is nowhere near that on iOS. There is an Android Backup service, but as Google’s help notes, “not all apps use [it]. Some apps may not back up and restore all data.”

As for the complaints about two-factor authentication – the idea of 2FA is that it’s hard to configure a new device. Ditto for credit cards in Wallet.

Sometimes it feels as though people complain without considering what they’re complaining about. If this stuff were easy to do, imagine the real havoc that a hacked iCloud password would cause to the actual owner – and how much someone like Ohayon would complain if they were the victim: I’m sure we’d hear that Apple had made it too easy for people to set up new phones from a UID/password combination.
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Software application risks on the OSX continuum • Cyber ITL


We always look across all of the binaries to identify the very best and very worst applications in any run, to see if anything of interest pops out.  We were dismayed to see that Microsoft AutoUpdate (the update software that ships with their office suite) had one of the worst 10 scores out of all 38k+ binaries we evaluated.  It’s a 32 bit application with no ASLR, an executable heap, unfortified source, and no stack guards.  In the office suite scores from the prior histogram, we did not include this update software. If we change the score of the office suite to include all the software it comes with, this pulls the score down significantly. It should be pointed out that this updater is related to Microsoft’s DRM (digital rights management – anti software piracy) component that is listening on the network on your OS X system if you have MS Office installed. 

In contrast, the native OSX Auto Update software does quite well, scoring slightly better than Google Chrome did.  Given what a target auto updaters are for attackers, this is more along the lines of what we would like to see for this sort of software.


They’ve also looked at OSX v Linux v Windows 10 in terms of “security” against attack. Windows 10 is miles ahead – which just goes to show what more than a decade of “Trustworthy Computing” initiatives can do.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

2 thoughts on “Start up: Note 7’s slow recall, HP v refills, here come the ad police!, AirPods pro and anti, and more

  1. To toot Android’s horn again, re: “Setting up a new iPhone from an iCloud backup (if you’re not going down the iTunes route) is like Churchill’s description of democracy – the worst, except for all the others. Has Ohayon ever tried setting up a new Android phone? The experience is nowhere near that on iOS. There is an Android Backup service, but as Google’s help notes, “not all apps use [it]. Some apps may not back up and restore all data.””

    On Android, you can install a backup app, backup your old phone to SD, move the SD to the new phone, and restore from that SD: apps, data, settings, credentials, media… basically you clone the old phone to the new phone in one single, self-contained step. Takes a lot less than going through the cloud, and can be left fully unattended once it’s started.

    Trying to do things the iOS way on Android is missing the much larger picture: on Android, no need to use a PC, or the cloud. Though Google can transfer some basic stuff over the cloud (apps, credentials, some data), I’m sure that’s inferior to iOS’s cloud backup/restore because it’s a distinct second smartest way to do it anyway.

    • That’s great if you have the phone with you, and know to install the backup app. (So many to choose from. Which will respect your privacy? Which can you implicitly trust?)

      What happens if
      – your phone doesn’t have an SD card slot (eg Nexus phones)?
      – your phone, and the SD card, is stolen/lost/irredeemably damaged?

      Sure, plenty of people won’t have perfect iCloud backups because Apple is stingy with storage; but the 5GB backup will mean they have all the basics, in general.

      What you’re describing with the SD card is pretty much the same as “backup old phone to iTunes, restore new phone from iTunes”. Great if you have the local storage handy, not so great if you don’t. (In theory I think you could borrow a random PC, set up a new user, install iTunes, sign in as yourself, back up the phone, restore to the new phone, de-authorise the iTunes account on the computer, delete the user – done. Not as elegant as an SD card, but it’s feasible if your computer isn’t to hand.)

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