Start up: Facebook’s race ad row, Merkel’s search query, how Vine withered, toaster’s hacked!, and more


OLED displays are coming to next year’s iPhone, Sharp’s chief says. Photo by adafruit on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

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

Merkel: internet search engines are ‘distorting perception’ • The Guardian

Kate Connolly:

»

Angela Merkel has called on major internet platforms to divulge the secrets of their algorithms, arguing that their lack of transparency endangers debating culture.

The German chancellor said internet users had a right to know how and on what basis the information they received via search engines was channelled to them.

Speaking to a media conference in Munich, Merkel said: “I’m of the opinion that algorithms must be made more transparent, so that one can inform oneself as an interested citizen about questions like ‘what influences my behaviour on the internet and that of others?’.

“Algorithms, when they are not transparent, can lead to a distortion of our perception, they can shrink our expanse of information.”

«

The key point is that they’re not interrogable: we can’t trace back how they reach their conclusions. Humans, at least, can be asked.
link to this extract


Sharp president confirms new iPhones to adopt OLED panels • Nikkei Asian Review

Debby Wu:

»

Remarks by Sharp President Tai Jeng-wu, also an executive at Sharp’s parent company Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn Technology Group, came at a time when Apple is working on revamping the design of its flagship device to boost sales during the iPhone’s 10th anniversary next year.

“The iPhone has been evolving and now it is switching from LTPS (low-temperature poly-silicon) to OLED panels,” Tai told students at Tatung University, his alma mater, during a ceremony in which he was awarded an honorary doctorate degree.

“We don’t know whether Apple’s OLED iPhones will be a hit, but if Apple doesn’t walk down this path and transform itself, there will be no innovation. It is a crisis but it is also an opportunity,” Tai said.

«

Oops.
link to this extract


Facebook lets advertisers exclude users by race • ProPublica

Julia Angwin and Terry Parris Jr.:

»

Imagine if, during the Jim Crow era, a newspaper offered advertisers the option of placing ads only in copies that went to white readers.

That’s basically what Facebook is doing nowadays.

The ubiquitous social network not only allows advertisers to target users by their interests or background, it also gives advertisers the ability to exclude specific groups it calls “Ethnic Affinities.” Ads that exclude people based on race, gender and other sensitive factors are prohibited by federal law in housing and employment.

«

Not quite: you can’t exclude Caucasians. This is the most amazing blind spot on Facebook’s part. Moreover, it cannot pretend to be a “tech company”. It makes its money from advertising and it’s reliant on content. It’s a media company, just like a newspaper or TV broadcaster.
link to this extract


The inside story of Vine’s demise • Vanity Fair

Maya Kosoff:

»

The issues of resources and competing visions, however significant, seemed exacerbated by a slowness to develop new product features. “When we introduced music looping when I was there, it was the idea that you could add music to your Vines and it would loop perfectly,” one former employee said. “When I started, we were having those meetings. It took almost a year and a half for it to actually launch in the app, whereas Snapchat was launching something new every two weeks.”

Leadership was a problem, too. Vine operated nearly independently of Twitter. It was headquartered in Twitter’s New York office, while the rest of Twitter is stationed in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. All three of Vine’s founders had left the company by October 2015. Twitter’s politics also took a toll on Vine. “There’s a bunch of different video things stewing around, but nobody has a clear vision for what video on Twitter should be, which was shocking,” a former employee told me. “As with all things at Twitter, it became a little more political. It became a little more like, ‘Well, who’s going to become the person who kind of runs all the video stuff?,’ as opposed to, ‘What the hell is our perspective on how video should work?’”

In Silicon Valley, there are really two kinds of companies: those that have good ideas, and those that can make money. Doing both is the ultimate goal, but Vine, along with untold numbers of on-demand delivery apps and novelty social-media companies, may have been the former, not the latter. Vine stars living in a luxury condo in Los Angeles may have loved the idea—as did Vine’s users—but the company never found its footing generating revenue. (Twitter itself is still figuring out a path to profitability.)

«

Salient point: Twitter had three video services running at once. That’s the inside view. And now for the external view…
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Inside the secret meeting that changed the fate of Vine forever • Mic

Taylor Lorenz:

»

Last fall [in 2015], nearly 20 of Vine’s top 50 creators gathered in a conference room at 1600 Vine Street in Los Angeles to stage an intervention.

They were there to meet with Karyn Spencer, Vine’s Creative Development Lead, and other representatives from Vine in a last-ditch effort to save an app they saw was failing fast.

Marcus Johns, with 6.1 million followers, and Piques, a Vine star with more than 3.1 million followers, helped organize the meeting. They and their peers had noticed a sharp dropoff in engagement on the app. Johns and Piques owed their fame to the platform, and they were desperate to turn it around.

The stars had a proposal: If Vine would pay all 18 of them $1.2m each, roll out several product changes and open up a more direct line of communication, everyone in the room would agree to produce 12 pieces of monthly original content for the app, or three vines per week.

«

They also asked for Vine to deal with harassment and abuse (among other things). Which didn’t happen. Twitter, amazingly, considered the payment – then decided not to. And so Vine died.
link to this extract


Mac malaise • curtclifton.net

Curtis Clifton works at the Omni Group, which makes Mac/iOS software:

»

The real issues is that the Touch Bar is impressive tech looking for a problem. [Daring Fireball’s John] Gruber writes:

»

The Touch Bar is the answer to “These keyboard F-keys are cryptic and inflexible — what can we replace them with that’s better?” That’s an actual problem.

«

That is not an actual problem. Actual problems are user problems. What job does the Touch Bar do? None of the demos of the Touch Bar were compelling to me. Everything the Touch Bar does can be done on-screen with trackpad input or on a tablet with pen input. “But now you don’t have to take your hands off the keyboard!” Instead I have to take my eyes off the screen. That’s a win? No. It’s a gimmick.

The one actual problem the Touch Bar might address is discoverability. By showing controls that are appropriate for the user’s current task, devs might help their users find more of the power their software provides. I see two counterpoints here. There’s nothing stopping developers from doing that now without the extra hardware, and there’s a very good chance that the extra real estate will be used to overwhelm rather than edify. Just think what the team that designed Microsoft Office’s ribbons UI could do with yet another row of buttons.

That brings me to the heart of why the event was so disappointing. Apple is targetting casual users and sacrificing support for power users.

«

I’d like to know what sort of internal discussions Apple had in the past about various design changes in laptops, and what there was over the Touch Bar. This wasn’t done in a hurry. The design team created it – in response to the software team? The marketing team? Off their own bat? – and then the software team had to implement shortcuts for it in tons of apps, as well as the software to run it. That’s a lot of time during which someone could have said “You know what? This is stupid.” But then what do you get? The same devices as before, speedbumped. It’s notable that those who are most negative about the Touch Bar have never seen it. This is a common trope with new Apple features.

Instead of the Touch Bar, they could have made a touchscreen. Except Apple already has a touchscreen OS, and products which run it.
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Apple’s new MacBooks: out of touch or just in time? • Forbes

Mark Rogowsky:

»

Many critics yesterday shared the view of Business Insider’s Rosoff and questioned Apple’s apparent intransigence to build a Mac touchscreen.

But while the desire for such a feature is understandable, its absence makes sense if you’re Apple. The company decided several years ago that touchscreen PCs offer a lousy user experience: Whether on a laptop or desktop, the screen is too far away to be easily pressed most of the time. To fix this, you need to first redesign the OS to support touch and then second redesign the hardware to get closer to the user.

Microsoft has performed a clever version of the latter with the new Surface Studio. But while that machine is gorgeous, at $3,000 and up, Microsoft will be lucky to sell 100,000 per quarter. In fact, for all the marketing and hype around Surface, the Pro tablet/PC hybrids sell only about 1 million in a similar time frame. These are products for the pundit class, to be sure, with apparently cutting-edge features and lots of legacy technology built in (USB ports, woot!).

«

The difficulty is figuring out to what extent the pundit class really has the pulse of the “ordinary” buyer. Do “ordinary” people buy a Pro device? The MacBook Air will do plenty well for most people who want USB-A and legacy connectors. If you’re a pro and buying a Pro, you might be able to spring for the extra cost of the connectors – and have a need for Touchbars and so on.
link to this extract


Why freemium apps suck for everyone (and how Apple is killing paid apps) • Cult of Mac

Graham Bower:

»

The reason we held out for so long against the switch from [insisting on having an app that is] paid-for to freemium is because, honestly, we think it sucks.

Last year I wrote a manifesto for classy app developers. I argued that app pricing should be clear and easy for the user to understand. Frankly, most freemium apps are anything but.

Take Pokémon Go for example. There is no way I would have downloaded this “free” app had I known that it would end up costing me over $40. Yes, I realize that I’m a grown adult and it is entirely up to me how much I choose to splurge on cute pocket-size creatures.

But my lack of impulse control aside, the fact remains that, like most freemium software, the total cost of ownership for the game is unclear at the start. When you download it, you really have no way of knowing how much storage, incense, lucky eggs and lures you will need to purchase.

To be fair, Pokémon Go is far from unique in this respect. In fact, these days this is pretty much the norm, which means I now avoid the temptation of “free” games like Madden NFL Mobile because I have absolutely no idea how much they are really going to cost me. Suddenly the price of the console version looks like a bargain.

Like Steve Jobs said about music, I believe that people want to own their apps. That way you know what the total cost will be.

«

In common with many before him, Bower argues that Apple should have offered the ability to get free trials, and that this would have “saved” paid apps. To which I’d say: what are freemium apps with IAPs, if not a form of free trial? OK, they’re not exactly the shareware model (use 30 days, then pay or discard). But you can get pretty close – watermarking, no-file-save, and so on.
link to this extract


The inevitability of being hacked • The Atlantic

Andrew McGill:

»

I switched on the server at  1:12 p.m. Wednesday, fully expecting to wait days—or weeks—to see a hack attempt.

Wrong! The first one came at 1:53 p.m.

This graphic is a simulation—a bot’s-eye view, if you will—but it’s the actual sequence of commands the hacking script used. It tried a common default username and password (root/root) and executed the “sh” command, giving it the ability to run programs and install its own code. My fake toaster doesn’t allow that, of course—it just cuts the connection.

The next hacking attempt, from a different IP address and using different login credentials, came at 2:07 p.m. Another came at 2:10. And then 2:40. And 2:48. In all, more than 300 different IP addresses attempted to hack my honeypot by 11:59 p.m. Many of them used the password “xc3511,” which was the factory default for many of the old webcams hijacked in last week’s attack.

The last attempted hack came 6 minutes ago using the username “root” and the password “xc3511.” (Yes, those are live figures; they were updated when you loaded this page.)

I’ll admit this volume of attacks might not be typical. I hosted my fake toaster on a virtual Amazon server, not an actual toaster hooked up to residential internet. Hackers aren’t typing these passwords themselves—they’ve programmed bots to do the hard work for them, scanning through thousands of open ports an hour.

«

Actual journalism: show people what happens, and how quickly. Nicely done, The Atlantic.
link to this extract


Sweden bans cameras on drones • BBC News


»

The use of camera drones has been made illegal in Sweden unless they are granted a special surveillance permit.

Under new rules set down by the Supreme Administrative Court of Sweden, camera drones qualify as surveillance cameras and require a licence.

Permits can be expensive and paying to apply for one does not guarantee it will eventually be granted.

There are no exceptions made for journalists, and critics have said the ruling could mean job losses.

In what some are describing as a “huge blow” to the aerial photography and camera drone industry, the court ruled that drone-mounted cameras are “regarded as surveillance cameras”.

Industry group UAS Sweden (Unmanned Aerial System) has argued that the court ruling could put 5,000 jobs in danger.

«

Petapixel says more than 20,000 drones were sold in Sweden in 2014, and more than 1,000 permits for commercial use.
link to this extract


Total nightmare: USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 • Stephen Foskett, Pack Rat


»

The core issue with USB-C is confusion: not every USB-C cable, port, device, and power supply will be compatible, and there are many different combinations to consider. The newest, most full-featured devices (such as Apple’s brand-new Touch Bar MacBook Pro) will support most of the different uses for the USB-C port, but typical older devices only support basic USB 3.0 speed and (if you’re lucky) Alternate Mode DisplayPort.

And it gets worse. Many USB-C peripherals are limited in various ways as well. Consider a simple USB-C HDMI adapter: It could implement HDMI over USB 3.0 or it could use Alternate Mode (native) HDMI. It could even (theoretically) implement HDMI over Alternate Mode Thunderbolt using an off-board graphics chip! Of these options, only the newest computers, like the MacBook Pro, would support all three. Can you imagine the consumer confusion when they purchase a “USB-C HDMI adapter” only to find that it doesn’t work with their MacBook or Pixel or whatever?

«

The capability for USB-C to screw things up really emanates from two things: all the legacy things that USB used to do; and all the display capabilities that USB-C is trying to incorporate. It also reminds me of the early days of Wi-Fi, when IBM was trying its damndest to push 5GHz 802.11a, while all the consumer-facing money was in 2.4GHz 802.11b.

“Standards”, eh. However, what USB 1.1 and Wi-Fi couldn’t do was this:

»

the issue of incompatible cables is even more serious. Many companies, including my go-to source, Monoprice, are building USB-C cables of various quality and compatibility. If you’re not careful, you can neuter or even damage your devices by using the wrong cable. Seriously: using the wrong cable can damage your machine! This should not be possible, but there it is.

«

link to this extract


Postimage.org — free image hosting / image upload • Postimage.org


»

Please contact us if you have a CDN [content delivery network] that is capable and willing of serving 1.8 Petabytes of outgoing traffic per month free of charge, or if you can make a donation to help us pay a monthly $12,000 bill from CloudFlare that we are now facing.

We have already received over $1300 worth of donations and counting. Thanks to everyone who is contributing; you rock!

«

Gee, you can’t serve 1.8PB (1.8 thousand TB, 1.8 million GB) for nothing? Shocking.
link to this extract


George Hotz cancels his self-driving car project after NHTSA expresses concern • The Verge

Sean O’Kane:

»

Hotz posted the full letter (which you can read here) to the Comma.ai Twitter account this morning. It was sent alongside a special order requesting more information about the Comma One, and The Verge was able to confirm its authenticity. Hotz also wrote that he “would much rather spend my life building amazing tech than dealing with regulators and lawyers. It isn’t worth it.” He went on to write that he was canceling Comma One, and that Comma.ai “will be exploring other products and markets.”

«

Amazing that the US road regulator would want to stop people putting potentially lethal one-tonne vehicles into the control of unproven software.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: the attention economy, Alphabet booms, Apple’s two-year Touch Bar, sayonara Vine, and more


Getting access to Twitter’s “firehose” can be useful for law enforcement. Photo by Stephen Mitchell on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

Reading this on email? Forward it to a friend.

A selection of 10 links for you. Contrarily. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

It’s the attention economy, stupid: why Trump represents the future whether we like it or not • Wired

Rowland Manthorpe:

»

Attracting attention has been an industry – advertising – since the second half of the nineteenth century. But in the last 25 years, it has turned into the basis for the entire digital economy. The crucial change was the ability to produce and consume media at increasingly low marginal cost.

At first, people called this new era the “information age,” thinking that once knowledge could be produced cheaply, everyone would be given access to it. In fact, now that information could be manufactured for next to nothing, it became relatively unimportant. What mattered was the truly scarce resource: the attention to consume it.

Today, tech and media companies compete for attention, in the form of time spent on their apps and websites. The business model is simple: capture attention, then monetise it through advertising. Most people won’t click on the adverts, but enough will (or so we hope). In that sense, not much has changed since the first email spammers swamped Yahoo and Hotmail inboxes with ads for vitamins and penis-lengthening. The only difference: today the spam is called “content.”

Once, content meant meaningful material. Now, it means something akin to “stuff”. Instead of art, literature, film and journalism, we have “stuff”. The message – what, in some old fashioned sense, it actually “says” – is beside the point. All that matters is whether it grabs attention.

«

Attention is the one characteristic that is evenly afforded: everyone has 24 hours in each day. It’s what you do with it, and how much others can get from it, that matters in a world of content. But the implication that attention (and so time) correlates directly with monetisation isn’t correct; but many people make it and that leads them down dead ends.
link to this extract


Twitter’s ‘firehose’ of tweets is incredibly valuable—and just as dangerous • Bloomberg

Benjamin Elgin and Peter Robison:

»

For years, Twitter has offered access to its “Firehose”—the global deluge of tweets, half a billion a day—to a number of companies that monitor social media. Some of those companies resell the information—mostly to marketers, but also to governments and law enforcement agencies around the world. Some of these authorities use the data to track dissidents, as Bloomberg Businessweek has learned through dozens of interviews with industry insiders and more than 100 requests for public records from law enforcement agencies in the U.S.

There’s nothing illegal about selling Twitter data, but it’s uncomfortable for a company that promotes itself as a medium for free speech and protest. Twitter issues regular transparency reports and has gone to court to fight censorship. Dorsey himself marched with Black Lives Matter activists in 2014, regularly tweeting messages of support and appearing at a conference this June wearing a #staywoke T-shirt. But amid Dorsey’s activism, one data user, Chicago monitoring company Geofeedia, was hired by California police departments after pitching its ability to identify civil rights protesters, according to an American Civil Liberties Union report released in September. Twitter, which touts a policy that prohibits third parties from making content available “to investigate, track or surveil Twitter’s users or their content,” cut ties with Geofeedia in October.

Twitter offers a free, stripped-down version of the full Firehose to the public, and in recent years, at least 17 companies besides Geofeedia have marketed surveillance products that make use of Twitter data to law enforcement organizations.

«

A warning before you click through: autoplay video ahead.
link to this extract


Apple’s new TV app won’t have Netflix or Amazon Video • WIRED

Brian Barrett:

»

Amazon’s absence is no surprise, given that Amazon Video has never been on Apple TV, and seems unlikely to show up any time soon. (If you need any further indication of Amazon’s feelings about Apple’s streaming box, keep in mind that it not long ago removed it, as well as Chromecast, from its digital shelves.)

Netflix comes as a bit of a surprise, though, as it’s long been a stalwart of streaming boxes, and was previously a participant in Apple TV’s universal search feature. The service didn’t appear in Apple’s presentation today, though, and the company has confirmed that it won’t be involved, at least at launch. “I can confirm we are not participating and evaluating the opportunity,” says Netflix spokesperson Smita Saran.

Netflix is still on Apple TV, of course, and this doesnt hat preclude future involvement in Apple’s new TV app, but a new service that’s meant to call up all of your streaming options that leaves out everything from Orange Is the New Black and Narcos to the slate of Disney, Marvel, and Star Wars movies that will join the Netflix catalog over the next three years seems like it will fall short of its aspirations.

«

Give it time. What’s Netflix’s leverage here?
link to this extract


Alphabet says revenue up 20.2%, sets $7bn share buyback • Yahoo

Narottam Medhora:

»

Google parent Alphabet reported a 20.2% rise in quarterly revenue on Thursday, helped by robust sales of advertising on mobile devices and YouTube, and the search giant said it would repurchase about $7bn of its Class C stock.

Alphabet, along with Facebook, dominates the fast-growing mobile advertising market.

Shares of Alphabet, the world’s No. 2 company by market value, were up 1.6% in after-hours trading.

Google’s ad revenue rose 18.1% to $19.82bn in the third quarter, accounting for 89.1% of Google’s total revenue, compared with 89.8% of revenue in the second quarter.

Paid clicks rose 33 percent, compared with a rise of 29% in the second quarter. Paid clicks are those ads on which an advertiser pays only if a user clicks on them.

Cost-per-click, or the average amount advertisers pay Google, fell 11% in the latest period after dropping 7% in the second quarter.

«

That’s quite an achievement. Going to be fun to see if this came from mobile-without-YouTube, or YouTube, or what, because Google stuffed mobile search pages with three ads a year ago, meaning there was nowhere else to go, ad-wise, on mobile search.
link to this extract


New MacBook Pro touches at why computers still matter for Apple • CNet

Shara Tibken and Connie Guglielmo:

»

Designed to work with Apple’s MacOS Sierra software, the black OLED display lights up to serve a changing menu of buttons, control sliders, dials and even emojis geared to the app you’re using. Ive, who says his team worked on it for at least two years, calls the Touch Bar “the beginning of a very interesting direction” that combines “touch and display-based inputs with a mechanical keyboard.”

“What’s amazing is, it is just throughout the system,” Federighi says, showing how the context-sensitive bar displays everything from the tabs you have open in Safari, to your calculator and strips of images from the video you’re watching. It also works with software from third parties like Adobe and Microsoft.

A Touch Bar instead of a full-on touchscreen means disappointment for anyone hoping for iPads and MacBooks to merge into some new mobile gadget. That’s just not happening, the executives insist. It’s not because Apple can’t make a touchscreen Mac. It’s because Apple decided a touchscreen on a Mac wasn’t “particularly useful,” says Ive. And on the MacBook Pro, which keeps getting thinner and lighter, it could be “a burden.”

“Doing something that’s different is actually relatively easy and relatively fast, and that’s tempting,” Ive says, telling us Apple decided against touchscreens for the Mac “many, many” years ago. “You can become fairly comfortable that you have a design direction that’s compelling. But if you can’t work out how you can refine that” without compromising the final product, “you can still undermine a big idea.”

Even so, Apple realizes it’s hard to know whether to opt for a laptop or tablet, particularly when you compare, say, the 12-inch MacBook and comparably equipped 12.9-inch iPad Pro (with a detachable keyboard and stylus). They cost about the same at nearly $1,300.

«

Two years. Quite a while.
link to this extract


Important news about Vine • Medium

“Team Vine”:

»

Since 2013, millions of people have turned to Vine to laugh at loops and see creativity unfold. Today, we are sharing the news that in the coming months we’ll be discontinuing the mobile app.

Nothing is happening to the apps, website or your Vines today. We value you, your Vines, and are going to do this the right way. You’ll be able to access and download your Vines. We’ll be keeping the website online because we think it’s important to still be able to watch all the incredible Vines that have been made. You will be notified before we make any changes to the app or website.

Thank you. Thank you. To all the creators out there — thank you for taking a chance on this app back in the day.

«

We value you, but not so much that we’ll keep you going forever. Apart from anything, feeding video is expensive when you aren’t monetising it effectively. Twitter was always going to lose out to YouTube in this game; sensible to cut its losses while it can. Where’s the axe going to fall next?
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Worldwide smartphone shipments up 1.0% year over year in third quarter despite Galaxy Note 7 recall • IDC


»

“Samsung’s market dominance in the third quarter was unchallenged in the short term even with this high-profile Galaxy Note 7 recall, but the longer term impact on the Samsung brand remains to be seen. If the first recall was a stumble for Samsung, the second recall of replacement devices face-planted the Note series,” said Melissa Chau, associate research director, Mobile Devices. “In a market that is otherwise maturing, Christmas has come early for vendors looking to capitalize with large-screened flagship alternatives like the Apple iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel.”

“With Samsung’s Note 7 finally laid to rest, both Samsung and other vendors will need to invest both time and money into properly testing devices to avoid a future incident of this proportion,” said Anthony Scarsella, research manager, Mobile Phones. “The recall of the Note 7 represents an industry-wide wake-up call that will undoubtedly lead to a more vigorous testing and certification process moving forward.”

The top five vendors remain unchanged from last quarter despite double- and triple-digit growth from the leading Chinese vendors Huawei, OPPO, and Vivo. While Samsung and Apple continue to challenge each other at the top, these upcoming players have delivered value-packed devices that offer consumers top-shelf features at a fraction of the cost compared to the market leaders.

«

Numbers don’t include the shipped and recalled/unrecalled Note 7s. Huawei is coming up in Apple’s rear-view mirror – but OPPO and vivo are coming up behind it too. (Together, those latter two are bigger than Apple in this quarter.)
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Twitter needs a full-time CEO • Bloomberg Gadfly

Shira Ovide:

»

It’s now conventional wisdom that Twitter Inc. is badly in need of repair. Yet the company on Thursday turned in a not-bad earnings report card for the third quarter, with revenue that topped its own forecast and an announcement of layoffs with a goal of turning a profit next year. A turbulent stock price rose about 4% in premarket trading. 

But the conventional wisdom remains correct. Few new people are using Twitter. Once-healthy advertising sales have nearly come to a halt, with a 6% increase in the third quarter compared with a 60% jump at the same point in 2015. And the company said a planned restructuring of its ad sales organization makes it impossible to predict fourth-quarter revenue. Oh, and potential buyers all ran off.

«

The job cuts are only the beginning. But yes, it needs a full-time chief executive who has a clear vision about how to slim it down to profit. Twitter can’t expand to profit, because it isn’t expanding any more.
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No, George Soros does NOT own voting machines • Electionland

Jessica Huseman:

»

Here’s a fun new election conspiracy theory. A series of fringe right-wing blogs and some more prominent places like The Daily Caller have reported that George Soros has “deep ties” to, or even owns, a voting machine company that’s going to be used during the election — and that he might use the machines to rig votes.

The rumor has gotten enough air that one citizen created a White House petition asking “George Soros owned voting machines” to be removed. Almost 60,000 people have signed it.

The truth: Soros does not own voting machines, does not own any portion of the voting machine company, oh, and these machines are not even being used during the presidential election.

«

So many conspiracy theories, so little time.
link to this extract


Salvaging Google Fiber’s Achievements • diffraction analysis

Benoit Felten:

»

On the deployment side, the equation has changed from Google Fiber’s early days. Because Google made very targeted deployment and phased them over time, it’s now easy for AT&T and cable operators to respond in kind locally with a combination of price lowering and infrastructure deployment (or at least announcements) in the markets that Google publicly targets. The only way around that would be for Google to announce and undertake deployment in say 30 markets at the same time. It’s now quite clear that they don’t have the stomach for that.

Assuming they still want to play some kind of long game, they could however destabilize the incumbents by announcing a broad Webpass type deployment scenario. Target and quickly deploy in 30 markets with a Webpass like solution with the promise that if the demand is there, Fiber may be installed down the line. This positions the wireless broadband solution as a quick to market acquisition tool. It also forces AT&T to respond everywhere at the same time, something which (I suspect) they are incapable of and unwilling to do. This could be part of the catalyst, forcing AT&T and/or cable to really up their infrastructure game or (failing that) look at structural solutions to respond (assuming the TW/AT&T merger goes forward, the scenario of AT&T spinning off telecom infrastructure altogether is maybe not so unlikely anymore…)

Beyond that though, I think the best bet to stick to the original goal (wanting to change the market by pushing existing players to deliver significantly better service) is to open up the Google Fiber experiment. Instead of keeping everything close to the vest, go public with it and tell everyone out there: “this is how we’ve done it, these are the challenges we have faced, this is how we’ve overcome them”.

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link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Fear of a USB-C planet: why we’re going to miss Apple’s MagSafe


MagSafe 2: you’re gonna miss it. Photo by yum9me on Flickr.

Want to know my pick for the best technology Apple ever introduced? MagSafe. That’s the magnetic attachment system for power cords which it unveiled in January 2006 with the new MacBook Pro. Six years later, it followed that up with the MagSafe 2 connector.

From 2006 until the USB-C MacBook in mid-2015, every portable had a MagSafe connector of one sort or another. (The desktop machines didn’t.) As a technology, it’s so clever and so convenient, being reversible, and an inherent safety feature – you (or your dog/significant other) couldn’t destroy your laptop by accidentally walking into the power cord and pulling it off your desk, or destroying the power socket on the machine, either of which would be expensive to get fixed.

And now, I suspect Apple is going to get rid of MagSafe all across the laptop line, and replace it with USB-C. That’s what the “Hello again” launch looks like to me. (The MacBook Air might be kept on, unimproved and unadvertised, to anchor a lower price point.)

This is going to be a hell of a thing. From April 2006 to the end of December 2012, Apple sold 57m laptops, with – it’s a safe assumption – MagSafe adaptors on all of them. It used to split out the numbers, but stopped at the end of 2012, when the desktop:laptop ratio was running at 20:80.

Since then it has sold a total of 88.3m laptops and desktops; at that 20:80 ratio, one could reckon it has sold another 70.6m laptops.

That means that since the first MagSafe was introduced, Apple has sold a total of more than 120m laptops with MagSafe chargers.

And now it’s dumping them for USB-C.

Oh man. This is going to be a hell of a thing. If you’re like me and my family, then you have a ton of MagSafe chargers, possibly of different generations with the little magnetic doohickey which converts a MagSafe 1 to a MagSafe 2, distributed around your home and office. It’s so convenient not to have to take your charger from home to work and vice-versa; no forgetting. If you upgraded your laptop during the past ten years, you didn’t have to worry about getting a different charger; you could use the same one, or upgrade it. MagSafe is great.

Now? USB-C is coming. But you can’t make it compatible with MagSafe. No doohickey is going to make it right.

I can see that while a lot of people have been waiting for the new Mac laptops, this is going to be a real wrench. It’s as bad as the original iMac in 1998, which ripped up peoples’ investments in ADB plugs and forced them to USB. Except that at least then you could make converters which would get ADB to talk to USB; you won’t be able to get your old MagSafe charger to work with USB-C. (If you could, Apple would have done that with the new USB-C MacBook.)

There’s no doubt Apple is going to go all-out on USB-C with the new models; it wouldn’t surprise me if it revises the entire desktop and laptop line to introduce the new ports. When it does this stuff, it does it for keeps.

I’d love to be wrong on this; I’d love for Apple to have realised how wonderful MagSafe is, and determined to implement it on USB-C. But as noted above, if it could, then it would have done this on the MacBook.

Man, you’re going to miss those chargers. It’s going to take a long time for 10 years’ worth of chargers to go away. And a little part of me hates USB-C that tiny bit more; even though I’m in no hurry to upgrade, I know that when it happens all those chargers will be useless to me. Damn.

(On Twitter, Ken Tindell points out that Griffin – which picked up on the gap left when the first iMac introduced USB – has done a magnetic USB-C connector. Looks nifty.)

Start up: Airpods delayed, battle of the bokehs, Microsoft’s tablet vroooom, AI judges, and more


Is your website bloated? Can you smell it? Photo by Xray Delta One on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Click early, click often. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Apple delays AirPod rollout, don’t expect them in October • TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino:

»

If you’ve been waiting for Apple’s AirPod wireless headphones to go on sale, you’re going to have to wait a little longer. Apple says that it is not ready and will need “a little more time.”

“The early response to AirPods has been incredible. We don’t believe in shipping a product before it’s ready, and we need a little more time before AirPods are ready for our customers,” an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch.

Apple did not say whether hardware or software updates are what is at the heart of the delay so I couldn’t conjecture which. My experiences with the AirPods have been very positive this far but the pre-production units that were given out to press are not without their foibles and bugs. Read about my time with them here.

I have seen a variety of small software/hardware interaction issues that have caused some frustration – but have taken them in stride because they are not final products.

«

Pity: I have found myself looking forward to the release of these. Everything I’ve heard about these has been positive, including Siri responsiveness (and understanding) and battery life.
link to this extract


Alphabet senior management page missing • Business Insider

Avery Hartmans:

»

If you’re curious to know who’s running the show over at Google and the other Alphabet companies, good luck: Alphabet no longer lists it senior management team on its website.

The names of the company’s top executives, their headshots, their bios, or any other information that shows who’s who inside the various Alphabet subsidiary companies have vanished from the company’s website. And it looks like it’s been that way for a few months now.

«

Being redesigned, apparently.
link to this extract


iPhone 7 Plus vs Honor 8: battle of the (fake) bokeh! • iMore

Daniel Bader:

»

a Portrait mode, as Apple calls it, is not uncommon. It’s been available in some Android phones for years. Specifically, the HTC One M8 added a second 2MP camera sensor for this very purpose, and while it was well-received, it never gained the adoption that HTC wanted to justify its addition to the phone’s sequel the following year.

Some phones don’t make a big deal over the second camera, utilizing it more for additional resolution than adding features. But there are a couple devices, such as the Honor 8, close cousin to the Huawei P9, that does both: like the iPhone 7 Plus, it uses a second 12MP sensor both to accrue additional data for regular wide-angle photos, and to aide with zoom — and it also uses the separation to measure depth, and apply artificial background blurring to photos.

«

This is a useful comparison: I had seen the P9’s implementation, which lets you change the focus point and aperture after you’ve taken the shot, and liked it. But as this shows, the algorithm used for the blurring effect isn’t as clever as the iPhone’s.
link to this extract


Microsoft goes back to the drawing board – literally, with 28″ tablet and hockey puck gizmo • The Register

Iain Thomson:

»

the Surface Book is getting an update and there’s a monster 28-inch new Surface aimed at designers.

The top-end Core i7-powered Surface Book is getting an upgrade, with a faster processor that required a new cooling system, double the graphics performance of last year’s model, and 30% more battery life to give 16 hours of operations.

The end result, promised head of the Surface line Panos Panay, is the fastest and best-specced laptop out there. It will be out in November for $2,399 and is available for preorder today.

Panay also unveiled the Surface Studio, a 28-inch screen that features the thinnest LCD touchscreen ever produced, just 12.5mm thick and powered by a base unit. The screen has 13.5 million pixels at 192PPI and a 3:2 aspect ratio – but the grunt is in the hardware.

“Windows has never been better on any single product, any,” Panay enthused.

The Surface Studio runs on an Intel quad-core Core i5 or i7, high-end Nvidia graphics and a 1TB or 2TB hard drive. The screen also has microphones arrayed around it for voice control and a “studio quality” camera for videoconferencing.

The screen can be folded back to around a 20-degree angle, like a drafting board. The Surface Pen works on it, but Microsoft has also built the Surface Dial for the platform.

«

That’s definitely one way to win back revenue share in the tablet market.
link to this extract


The Surface Dial is a crazy puck that controls Microsoft’s new PC • The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:

»

The Surface Dial is big puck that’s sort of like a modern twist on a paint palette. When the Dial is placed on the Studio’s screen, a radial menu pops up all around it. Different color or brush options might pop up, for example, when a painting app is on screen — presumably, other apps can create custom menus as well. It can also be used to navigate and pan around an image.

The dial is rotated to control what’s on screen, and it uses haptic feedback to register the click of different options along the way. The idea is to get artists and designers using both of their hands at once for a much more natural experience.

There’ll also be some simpler uses of the Surface Dial. Microsoft says that in Pandora or Spotify, the Dial can be used to adjust the computer’s volume. That’s not quite as exciting, but it illustrates how Microsoft is hoping other apps will take advantage of it in one way or another. The device doesn’t have to be placed on the computer’s screen for that kind of input — it can still function from off to the side.

«

It’s a pity Microsoft didn’t build a smartwatch with a rotating bezel so you could rotate that to control what’s on your screen. It would have been just as useful – ie not useful at all. And I detest Kasternakes’s use of “presumably”. Either find out, or don’t write it.

link to this extract


Artifically intelligent ‘judge’ developed which can predict court verdicts with 79% accuracy • Daily Telegraph

Sarah Knapton:

»

A computer ‘judge’ has been developed which can correctly predict verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights with 79% accuracy.

Computer scientists at University College London and the University of Sheffield developed an algorithm which can not only weigh up legal evidence, but also moral considerations.

As early as the 1960s experts predicted that computers would one day be able to predict the outcomes of judicial decisions.

But the new method is the first to predict the outcomes of court cases by automatically analysing case text using a machine learning algorithm.

“We don’t see AI replacing judges or lawyers, but we think they’d find it useful for rapidly identifying patterns in cases that lead to certain outcomes,” said  Dr Nikolaos Aletras, who led the study at UCL Computer Science.

“It could also be a valuable tool for highlighting which cases are most likely to be violations of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

To develop the algorithm, the team allowed an artificially intelligent computer to scan the published judgements from 584 cases relating to torture and degrading treatment, fair trials and privacy.

«

1) 79% is actually not much use. That’s roughly two coin flips. “Double heads! It’s for the defence!”
2) Might have been useful if Knapton had found some experts in the field to triangulate on how useful this might be, rather than just quoting the co-authors.
link to this extract


Brexit, open data and dangerous products • Memespring

Richard Pope:

»

There is going to be so much detail in the Great Repeal Bill – so many tiny decisions with potentially big impact – that it’s going to be hard to know what we are losing and what we are gaining. One thing we could lose is open data about dangerous products.

For reasons I’ve never fully understood, the body seemingly responsible for publishing recalls of dangerous products in the UK is a private organisation: the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.

They publish UK product recalls on their website, the terms and conditions of which forbid the reuse of the data online:

»

“You are welcome to print off pages from this website, link to them, or reproduce them, other than on another website, as long as you do not do so for financial gain or distort the information they contain.”

«

When I worked for Consumer Focus, we wanted to build a simple tool that sent email alerts about dangerous products. The long-term vision was to build a service that automatically issued recalls based on your purchase history (something I still hope a retailer like Amazon or John Lewis manages to get around to one day).

The Chartered Trading Standards Institute actively protect their copyright on the data (the Terms and Conditions forbid reuse of the data online), so we could not use that.

«

But EU law requires that such lists are published on the (open data) EU site RAPEX. Post-Brexit, though?

It’s unravelling oversights like this which will make Brexit such a headache. (Of course, it’s stupid in the first place that a private organisation owns the data about a matter of public interest.)
link to this extract


Web bloat score calculator

Željko Švedić:

»

In order to fix something, we need to measure it first.

Web bloat is a hot topic now: see posts by Maciej, Ronan, and Tammy. However, most of us still use a subjective absolute measurement: if it loads fast on your computer, then it’s good. That “measure” is flawed: a web page with only two paragraphs that weighs 500 kB is going to load fast—but it’s still bloated!

So, how to measure web bloat?

HTML is a text-based protocol, designed to render a graphics document on the client. The idea was that text is smaller to transfer than the full resolution image of a document. If that weren’t so, Tim Berners-Lee would have designed a protocol to transfer images, not text and markup. That gives a convenient way to measure the bloat of any static web page—just compare it to a full-page screenshot of the same page:

WebBS = TotalPageSize / PageImageSize

«

Be interested to see how various sites stack up against this seemingly innocuous test.
link to this extract


Google Pixel XL vs. iPhone 7 Plus speed test • YouTube

The speed test thing (start multiple apps, get them to do something, move on to the next app) again; clearly the iPhone remains some distance ahead on this test.
link to this extract


Comcast sues Nashville over Google Fiber-backed utility pole proposal • FierceTelecom

Sean Buckley:

»

Comcast has filed a lawsuit against Nashville challenging the Google Fiber-led One Touch Make Ready ordinance, marking the latest in a series of challenges the upstart FTTH provider is facing in building out 1 Gbps services to customers.

The cable MSO’s legal challenge, while not surprising, comes after AT&T filed a similar suit against the city in September.

In February, AT&T also filed a suit against the city of Louisville, Kentucky, saying that the OTMR proposal violates a number of state and federal laws.

Similar to AT&T’s suit, Comcast argued that decisions about AT&T-owned poles are carried out by the FCC and not Nashville. Comcast said that Nashville lacks the authority to regulate the Nashville Electric Service utility poles.

It has asked the court for a permanent injunction.

Comcast maintained that its suit is not about trying to prevent Google Fiber from entering the market.

«

Noo, of course not. Though it won’t have to worry too much about that in future…
link to this extract


Alphabet cutting jobs in Google Fiber retrenchment • Bloomberg

Mark Bergen:

»

Google parent Alphabet Inc. reset the project on a more humble footing on Tuesday. Craig Barratt, head of the Access unit that includes Google Fiber, is leaving, and about 9% of staff is being let go, according to a person familiar with the situation. The business has about 1,500 employees, meaning there will be more than 130 job losses.

Barratt wrote in a blog that the company is pulling back fiber-to-the-home service from eight different cities where it had announced plans. Those include major metropolitan areas such as Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix.

Moving into big cities was a contentious point inside Google Fiber, according to one former executive. Leaders like Barratt and Dennis Kish, who runs Google Fiber day-to-day, pushed for the big expansion. Others pushed back because of the prohibitive cost of digging up streets to lay fiber-optic cables across some of America’s busiest cities.

“I suspect the sheer economics of broad scale access deployments finally became too much for them,” said Jan Dawson, an analyst with Jackdaw Research. “Ultimately, most of the reasons Google got into this in the first place have either been achieved or been demonstrated to be unrealistic.”

«

The blogpost is rather like George Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” celebration after the Iraq invasion: short-term target achieved, longer-term target in doubt. The reset involves looking at wireless deployment, but that doesn’t explain why Barratt is leaving. Ambitious idea which ran smack bang into reality at the point where Google couldn’t just spend money wildly.

Also: Ben Thompson at Stratechery thinks Alphabet will sell Google Fiber “sooner rather than later”. His analysis is, as always, smart.
link to this extract


Are progressives being played by Wikileaks and Julian Assange? • The Establishment

Katherine Cross:

»

we live in an age where all the drawbacks of celebrity can be bestowed on anyone at a moment’s notice, with none of the benefits. Harassment on social media often works like this: A person is harassed for something they are believed to have said or done, then the harassment becomes “newsworthy” enough that the target is now “famous” and must forego a certain amount of privacy, providing a moral license for further abuse disguised as a quest for accountability.

The GamerGate harassment campaign employed this tortured logic when justifying its assault on progressive videogame journalists, including me. From the posting of our home addresses, to attempted and successful hacks, to mining everything we’ve ever said to anyone online for proof of “corrupt” relationships, it was all justified through recourse to our profession. Right now, there are websites that hyperlink certain Twitter exchanges I’ve had as prima facie proof that I had intimate relations with people I hardly know, and I still have to live with the consequences of that highlighting, two years on.

«

You’re famous because you’re getting piled on, in other words. (The headline, by the way, is one of those rare occasions when Betteridge’s Law doesn’t apply.) Also: I wouldn’t now trust Ben Norton, Salon’s political reporter, to decode a bus ticket, based on his tweets around the Wikileaks stuff on the Democratic campaign.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: Apple Macbook pics leak, Twitter to cut jobs, more SETI?, Amazon’s counterfeit trouble, and more


Do you find web pages harder to read than before? Blame design. Photo by doc(q)man on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 15 links for you. Save some for later. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Twitter planning hundreds more job cuts as soon as this week • Bloomberg

Sarah Frier:

»

Twitter, having failed to sell itself, is planning to fire about 8% of its workforce as the struggling social-media company prepares to go it alone for the time being.

Twitter may eliminate about 300 people, the same percentage it did last year when co-founder Jack Dorsey took over as chief executive officer, according to people familiar with the matter. Planning for the cuts is still fluid and the number could change, they added. The people asked not to be identified talking about private company plans.

An announcement about the job reductions may come before Twitter releases third-quarter earnings on Thursday, one of the people said. A Twitter representative declined to comment.

«

This isn’t going to end happily, though it could end well.
link to this extract


ARM: Hold my beer, we’ll install patches for your crappy IoT gear for you • The Register

Chris Williams:

»

Processor designer ARM will squirt security fixes directly into internet-connected gadgets to hopefully keep them defended from hackers.

Manufacturers of Internet-of-Things gizmos and other embedded products have complained that updating gear in the field is too much hard work. That means devices are rarely patched when security bugs are found, clearing the way for hackers to hijack vulnerable hardware to spy on people, flood websites offline, and cause other havoc.

So ARM has come up with mbed Cloud, a software-as-a-service platform that securely communicates with firmware in devices to install fixes and feature updates. Product makers pay to remotely manage all their sold kit. Crucially, they pay for what they use – whether it’s pushing updates, or connecting millions of units, and so on.

It’s similar to the cloud Next Thing Co has set up for its C.H.I.P. Pro: a web-based management interface for updating firmware over the internet, plus controls on the data leaving the devices.

«

Mmmmm don’t like this much either.
link to this extract


Apple still isn’t seeing much growth • Recode

Ina Fried:

»

Unit shipments of the iPhone, Apple’s most important product, came in at 45.5 million, about what analysts expected. Apple said demand for the iPhone 7, especially the larger iPhone 7 Plus had been more than it had anticipated.

“We’re thrilled with the customer response to iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and Apple Watch Series 2, as well as the incredible momentum of our services business,” CEO Tim Cook said in a statement.

Sales of other products were also roughly in line with what most were expecting, with Apple having sold 9.2 million iPads and 4.8 million Macs, both also down from year-ago levels.

One significant bright spot for Apple was its services business, fueled in part by the Pokémon Go craze, which generated $6.3 billion in revenue, up 24% from the prior year.

“We think we can continue to grow well,” CFO Luca Maestri said on a conference call with financial analysts.

«

Law of large numbers. And demand for the jet black versions, and the iPhone 7 Plus, still ahead of supply. (Perhaps due to the Note 7 vanishing.)
link to this extract


Images of new MacBook Pro with magic toolbar leaked in macos Sierra 10.12.1 • Mac Rumors

Juli Clover:

»

As has been rumored, the touch panel, which may be called the “Magic Toolbar,” appears to be contextual, changing based on what’s on the screen. In the images, Apple Pay dialog is depicted, asking a customer to confirm a purchase with a finger on the panel. It appears Touch ID is built into a nearly-invisible power button located next to the display.

Aside from the OLED touch panel, the new MacBook Pro looks similar in design to the existing models. It looks like the 13-inch MacBook Pro is used in the images, suggesting the machine will gain speakers located at the side of the keyboard.

«

I love that the images for this story were discovered because they’re included in the Apple Pay dialog of the latest release of the OS. Keeping product launches secret is getting harder than ever. (Though these are being announced on Thursday. But even so.)
link to this extract


Oppo & Vivo – the new smartphone leaders in China • Counterpoint Technology Market Research


»

Commenting on the findings, Research Director, James Yan, highlighted, “Over the last twenty four months, there has been a close race but tough fight for the top three spots in China smartphone market.

“This quarter for the first time ever, we have seen new market leaders for the top two spots. Oppo and Vivo became the number one and two smartphone brands in China capturing 17% and16% share respectively. The two brands sharing the same owners BBK group, now control almost one third of the China smartphone market. This is a tremendous performance from Oppo and Vivo.”

Mr. Yan further adds, “Shipments for Oppo’s smartphones grew +82% annually whereas Vivo recorded the highest growth in China during the quarter as the demand for its shipments rose 114% annually, more than doubling its volumes. Oppo’s performance was as a result of strong demand for its flagship Oppo R9 which became the top selling model in China for the entire quarter surpassing the popular iPhones which held the top spot for years. Oppo’s low-end A59 and A37 models are also driving strong sales in tier-3/4 cities adding to the overall uptick. Vivo also saw healthy demand for its flagship X7 series across offline retail helped by aggressive outdoor promotions, official sponsorships (e.g. NBA), celebrities (K-Pop stars) and effective social media marketing.

The focus on traditional offline retail and wider distribution network which still constitutes three-fourth of smartphone demand has been key to Oppo and Vivo success.”

«

Apple was always going to have a problem ahead of the iPhone 7 launch (and might have a problem even after that). But notice that Samsung doesn’t feature in that top five; China is effectively a lost market for it.
link to this extract


IBM apologises for Australia census debacle • FT

Jamie Smyth:

»

IBM said the complete shutdown of the Australian government’s census website during a “malicious” cyber attack this year may have been prevented if it had simply switched a router off and on again.

The collapse of the website on census night embarrassed the Australian government, cost A$30m (US$23m) and provoked a public outcry in a country where people face fines for failing to complete the census.

Appearing before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, IBM, the lead contractor for the website contract, “unreservedly apologised” for the inconvenience caused by the shutdown over a 40-hour period in August. 

Michael Shallcross, IBM’s chief engineer, told the committee that the company had tested the impact of a router failure before the census taking place. But he signalled that the census website shutdown may have been avoided if the router had been switched on and off during the testing phase.

«

Yes. Really.
link to this extract


Google buys Eyefluence eye-tracking startup • TechCrunch

Luca Matney:

»

As Google launches its Daydream virtual reality platform next month with its Daydream View headset, there is already attention being directed to its next-gen headset efforts.

Eye-tracking is a very important technology to future virtual reality headsets. Other companies in the space like SMI and Tobii have devoted efforts to using the eye as a method of signaling attention in interfaces but Eyefluence has devoted itself fully to using eye gesture cues for navigating menus and making selections.

Eyefluence enable users wearing head-mounted virtual reality or augmented glasses to use their eyes as a mouse and making selections only with their eye movements. Eye-tracking has other more technical use cases like foveated rendering which allows high-density displays to selectively choose areas of the screen to display images at lower-resolution based on where you’re focus actually is on the display.

«

link to this extract


[1610.03031] Discovery of peculiar periodic spectral modulations in a small fraction of solar type stars • Arxiv

EF Borra and E Trottier:

»

A Fourier transform analysis of 2.5 million spectra in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey was carried out to detect periodic spectral modulations. Signals having the same period were found in only 234 stars overwhelmingly in the F2 to K1 spectral range. The signals cannot be caused by instrumental or data analysis effects because they are present in only a very small fraction of stars within a narrow spectral range and because signal to noise ratio considerations predict that the signal should mostly be detected in the brightest objects, while this is not the case. We consider several possibilities, such as rotational transitions in molecules, rapid pulsations, Fourier transform of spectral lines and signals generated by Extraterrestrial Intelligence (ETI).

«

Ooooh. (Again.)
link to this extract


How Amazon counterfeits put this man’s business on brink of collapse • CNBC

Ari Levy:

»

After viewing a commercial for the product, ABC’s Lara Spencer and Gio Benitez pulled the heavy-duty moving straps over their forearms and proceeded to lift up a washing machine and walk with it.

“I was pretty impressed,” Spencer said to the crowd.

You’d think such a shout-out from the hugely popular morning show would provide a huge boost for Lopreiato’s 18-year-old family business.

But this is Amazon.com’s world, and Forearm Forklift, like so many brands, is uncomfortably inhabiting it.

Once a thriving product for movers and contractors available at a dozen big-box retailers including Wal-Mart, Target and AutoZone, Forearm Forklift has been ravaged over the past half-decade by counterfeiters, mostly selling on Amazon. Scores of merchants have copied the patented product, using its name, images and labels and undercutting the real Forearm Forklift on price.

When “Good Morning America” viewers go online to buy a set, which retails between $20 and $25, odds are they’ll be purchasing someone else’s product.

“It just keeps funneling business to the knockoffs,” said Lopreiato, 48, whose wife Sophia also works at the company and traveled with him to New York. “It’s almost like winning the lottery if they choose our item.”

Forearm Forklift is hanging on by a thread. The company is down to 21 full-time employees from 52 at its peak and recorded less than $500 in profit last year. Annual revenue in 2008 topped $4 million and has since plunged 30 percent. Retailers stopped placing orders because they were finding what appeared to be the same thing online for much cheaper.

«

How do you solve a problem like this? How can a Customs officer decide on this sort of stuff?
link to this extract


How the web became unreadable • Backchannel

Kevin Marks:

»

One of the reasons the web has become the default way that we access information is that it makes that information broadly available to everyone. “The power of the Web is in its universality,” wrote Tim Berners-Lee, director of the World Wide Web consortium. “Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

But if the web is relayed through text that’s difficult to read, it curtails that open access by excluding large swaths of people, such as the elderly, the visually impaired, or those retrieving websites through low-quality screens. And, as we rely on computers not only to retrieve information but also to access and build services that are crucial to our lives, making sure that everyone can see what’s happening becomes increasingly important.

We should be able to build a baseline structure of text in a way that works for most users, regardless of their eyesight. So, as a physicist by training, I started looking for something measurable.

«

And boy, did he find it. There’s a ton of hard-to-read stuff out there. (Hope this site is not one. Please let me know.)
link to this extract


July 2015: Apple’s chip, firmware security demands behind HomeKit delays • The Register

Kieren McCarthy:

»

Wondering where all the Apple HomeKit products are? Well, here’s an explanation: Apple is forcing internet-of-things companies to fit Apple-certified chips and firmware in their gadgets if they are to work with the HomeKit platform.

That means, in a lot of cases, engineers must effectively redesign their products to incorporate the mandatory HomeKit chips and firmware, and pass Apple’s strict checklist of requirements, industry sources have told The Register. Such moves are expensive and time consuming, but ultimately benefit punters.

The Apple-approved coprocessors and firmware provide secure communications between apps running on iOS devices and the manufacturers’ smarthome gizmos. A device and its app talk to each other via the HomeKit Accessory Protocol, with the Apple-certified system-on-chip in the device acting as a middleman handling the security, encryption and wireless comms.

«

In case you were wondering where all the Apple HomeKit devices were when all the “DDOS from your DVR” fun was going on last week. Apple can come across at controlling, but when the alternative is devices which have default admin logins burnt into ROM, is that so bad?
link to this extract


Xiaomi is selling the concept phone of your wildest dreams • The Verge

Vlad Savov:

»

Nothing says sci-fi like a bezel-less screen, and Xiaomi’s newly announced Mi Mix Android phablet is very sci-fi with its 91.3% screen-to-body ratio. This 6.4-inch device has just been announced as a concept phone by the Chinese company, but weirdly enough, it has a price, ¥3,499 ($516), and a release date of November 4th in its home country.

Think of every out-there spec you could cram into a phone and the Xiaomi Mi Mix probably has it. The rear of this handset and its side buttons are both made out of ceramic. The display is curved at the corners — just like that Sharp prototype we recently saw — and all the top-mounted sensors have been removed. The proximity sensor has been replaced by ultrasound, the earpiece has been replaced with a piezoelectric speaker that uses the metal frame to generate sound, and the front-facing camera is relocated to the bottom (though the phone can thankfully be rotated upside down for more flattering selfies).

«

Doubt there’s a profit on it, so fill your boots: profit yourself at their expense.
link to this extract


At&T is spying on Americans for profit • Daily Beast

Kenneth Lipp:

»

Hemisphere is a secretive program run by AT&T that searches trillions of call records and analyzes cellular data to determine where a target is located, with whom he speaks, and potentially why.

“Merritt was in a position to access the cellular telephone tower northeast of the McStay family gravesite on February 6th, 2010, two days after the family disappeared,” an affidavit for his girlfriend’s call records reports Hemisphere finding (PDF). Merritt was arrested almost a year to the date after the McStay family’s remains were discovered, and is awaiting trial for the murders.

In 2013, Hemisphere was revealed by The New York Times and described only within a Powerpoint presentation made by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The Times described it as a “partnership” between AT&T and the U.S. government; the Justice Department said it was an essential, and prudently deployed, counter-narcotics tool.

However, AT&T’s own documentation — reported here by The Daily Beast for the first time — shows Hemisphere was used far beyond the war on drugs to include everything from investigations of homicide to Medicaid fraud.

Hemisphere isn’t a “partnership” but rather a product AT&T developed, marketed, and sold at a cost of millions of dollars per year to taxpayers. No warrant is required to make use of the company’s massive trove of data, according to AT&T documents, only a promise from law enforcement to not disclose Hemisphere if an investigation using it becomes public.

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link to this extract


Distrusting new Wosign and Startcom certificates • Mozilla Blog

K Wilson:

»

Mozilla has discovered that a Certificate Authority (CA) called WoSign has had a number of technical and management failures. Most seriously, we discovered they were backdating SSL certificates in order to get around the deadline that CAs stop issuing SHA-1 SSL certificates by January 1, 2016.

Additionally, Mozilla discovered that WoSign had acquired full ownership of another CA called StartCom and failed to disclose this, as required by Mozilla policy. The representatives of WoSign and StartCom denied and continued to deny both of these allegations until sufficient data was collected to demonstrate that both allegations were correct. The levels of deception demonstrated by representatives of the combined company have led to Mozilla’s decision to distrust future certificates chaining up to the currently-included WoSign and StartCom root certificates.

«

Great work by Mozilla, except for one thing: most people simply click past those certificate warnings. They’ll trust anything. It’s only when the certificate warning requires you to actively do more than click a box that it will really be effective.
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Was the Google Pixel built in a mere 9 months? It would explain a lot… • Ars Technica

Ron Amadeo:

»

Nine months is an incredibly short amount of time to bring a smartphone to market. Back when Google owned Motorola, the company frequently talked about having an “18-month pipeline” of products that it needed to work though. If Google really did have about half that amount of time to develop the Pixel, it’s hard to imagine that Google single-handedly designed its first-ever smartphone from scratch.

More than likely, the company heavily leaned on HTC in developing and designing the Pixel. We see tons of evidence that supports this theory. The first clue is something that anyone with eyes can see—it looks a lot like an HTC phone, specifically the newer devices like the HTC A9 and HTC Desire 10. iFixit recently cracked open the Pixel and showed the world what the insides look like, and there seems to be an HTC influence there, too. Above, we have the iFixit teardowns of a few phones compared to an HTC A9 teardown from How2Tech.

Over at XDA Developers, people are finding more and more evidence that HTC’s involvement went beyond being a Foxconn-style manufacturer. The Pixel and Pixel XL kernels contain over 350 commits from HTC engineers, and a mysterious “htc_cerberus” label was stripped out of the source code. Thanks to Android security research Jon “Justin Case” Sawyer, we also know HTC did work on the Pixel bootchain. Sawyer describes the Pixels as having “a standard HTC bootchain” that is “written and signed by HTC.”

«

You’ll recall that Huawei walked away from Google’s suggestion that it makes 2016’s Pixel. So this makes perfect sense.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: smartwatches slow, Microsoft hikes UK prices, explaining Assange, recalling the botnet, and more


Okayyyy, that’s enough tablet time. Photo by Lars Ploughmann on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. What, again? I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Smartwatch market declines 51.6% in the third quarter as platforms and vendors realign • IDC


»

The worldwide smartwatch market experienced a round of growing pains in the third quarter of 2016 (3Q16), resulting in a year-over-year decline in shipment volumes. According to data from the International Data Corporation, (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, total smartwatch volumes reached 2.7 million units shipped in 3Q16, a decrease of 51.6% from the 5.6 million units shipped in 3Q15. Although the decline is significant, it is worth noting that 3Q15 was the first time Apple’s Watch had widespread retail availablity after a limited online launch. Meanwhile, the second generation Apple Watch was only available in the last two weeks of 3Q16.

“The sharp decline in smartwatch shipment volumes reflects the way platforms and vendors are realigning,” noted Ramon Llamas, research manager for IDC’s Wearables team. “Apple revealed a new look and feel to watchOS that did not arrive until the launch of the second generation watch at the end of September. Google’s decision to hold back Android Wear 2.0 has repercussions for its OEM partners as to whether to launch devices before or after the holidays. Samsung’s Gear S3, announced at IFA in September, has yet to be released. Collectively, this left vendors relying on older, aging devices to satisfy customers.”

«

Total sales: 2.7m, of which Apple was 1.1m. Pretty much the entire decline compared to last year is fewer Apple Watch sales. Android Wear’s biggest vendor was Lenovo – 0.1m.
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Spies for hire • The Intercept

Jenna McLaughlin:

»

the idea of a UAE-based company recruiting an army of cyberwarriors from abroad to conduct mass surveillance aimed at the country’s own citizens may sound like something out of a bad Bond movie, but based on several months of interviews and research conducted by The Intercept, it appears DarkMatter has been doing precisely that.

Most of those who spoke with The Intercept asked to remain anonymous, citing nondisclosure agreements, fear of potential political persecution in the UAE, professional reprisals, and loss of current and future employment opportunities. Those quoted anonymously were speaking about events based on their direct experience with DarkMatter.

Margaritelli isn’t the only one who insists that DarkMatter isn’t being truthful about its operations and recruitment. More than five sources with knowledge of different parts of the company told The Intercept that sometime after its public debut last November, DarkMatter or a subsidiary began aggressively seeking skilled hackers, including some from the United States, to help it accomplish a wide range of offensive cybersecurity goals. Its work is aimed at exploiting hardware probes installed across major cities for surveillance, hunting down never-before-seen vulnerabilities in software, and building stealth malware implants to track, locate, and hack basically any person at any time in the UAE, several sources explained. As Margaritelli described it in an email to me, “Basically it’s Big Brother on steroids.”

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link to this extract


Microsoft’s evolving hardware business • Beyond Devices

Jan Dawson says Microsoft needs new revenues sources in hardware, because Windows isn’t cutting much mustard:

»

Surface has been one of the bright spots of Microsoft’s hardware business over the last two years. Indeed – this home-grown hardware line has compared very favorably to that acquired phones business we were just discussing:

As you can see, Surface has now outsold phones for four straight quarters, and that’s not going to change any time soon. Overall, Surface revenues are growing year on year, which is easier to see if you annualize them:

However, what you can also see from that first Surface chart is that revenues for this product line are starting to settle into a pattern: big Q4 sales, followed by a steady decline through the next three quarters. That’s fine as long as there is new hardware each year to restart the cycle, but from all the reporting I’ve seen it seems the Surface Pro and Surface Book will get only spec bumps and very minor cosmetic changes, which leaves open the possibility of a year on year decline. Indeed, this is exactly what Microsoft’s guidance says will happen:

»

We expect Surface revenue to decline as we anniversary the product launch from a year ago.

«

I suspect the minor refresh on the existing hardware combined with the push into a new, somewhat marginal, product category (all-in-ones) won’t be enough to drive growth.

«

Ugh. “Anniversary” used as a verb. Anyway, the phone business is all but gone. So it’s Surfaces all the way down.
link to this extract


Samsung offers upgrade program for South Korea Note 7 customers • Reuters

Se Young Lee:

»

Samsung Electronics is offering an upgrade program option to Galaxy Note 7 customers in South Korea who trade in their recalled device for a Galaxy S7 phone, marking its latest attempt to retain customers.

In a statement on Monday, Samsung said customers who trade in their Note 7 phone for either a flat-screen or curved-screen version of the Galaxy S7 can trade up for a Galaxy S8 or Note 8 smartphone launching next year through an upgrade program.

The world’s top smartphone maker permanently ended Note 7 sales due to continued reports of fire from the flagship device. In addition to offering refunds or exchanges for a Galaxy S7 smartphone, Samsung has already offered financial incentives amounting to 100,000 won ($88.39) to affected customers in South Korea.

Users in the upgrade program will need to pay only half the price of a Galaxy S7 device, rather than the full amount, before exchanging to the S8 or the Note 8, Samsung said.

«

I’m puzzled. What sort of customer would really want to go through a downgrade to an S7/S7 Edge (because they could have bought either already this year, but chose not to) and then in a few months’ time change phone again? It’s going to feel like a bad experience, even with the financial incentive.
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Microsoft to raise prices by up to 22% after slump in pound • Daily Telegraph


»

Costs for Microsoft enterprise customers will increase by 13% for computer software and 22% for so-called online cloud services, where the company hosts a customer’s data in a virtual storage centre.

Microsoft is one of the biggest sellers of business software in the UK, led by its suite of Office programs such as Word, Powerpoint and Outlook. Its cloud service, Azure, sells access to vast computing power and is used by customers including the Ministry of Defence.

The price rise, which comes into effect at the start of next year, could cost the Government tens of millions of pounds a year.

While the Cabinet Office did not comment on how much it spends on Microsoft contracts, it is believed to be at least £100m a year.

The intended price rise comes at a bad time for the Government, given a major effort in Whitehall to reduce IT spending as part of a wider focus on civil service costs.

The price rise will only apply to new purchases, rather than ongoing contracts, and Microsoft said it would not increase prices for consumers.

However, the rise is likely to deal a blow to businesses, which may have to raise IT budgets or sacrifice other projects in order to pay for the increased charges.

«

So it’s a price rise coming in next year which won’t affect consumers or existing contracts. Seems a bit half-cocked, put like that. I think other price rises are also in the works.
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Why the WikiLeaks attack fizzled • RealClearPolitics

Bill Scher:

»

In failing to turn unvarnished internal political machinations into a paralyzing scandal, WikiLeaks may have inadvertently raised the bar on what constitutes a successful act of political cyberwar. If all an email hack accomplishes is the temporary embarrassment of some political aides and supersized serving of gossip for Washington cocktail parties, then the hack is hardly potent ammo.

The truth is, if we saw the raw email from the Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush or Bernie Sanders campaigns we would surely see similar political calculations over tricky issues, deliberations how to quash negative media narratives and intemperate comments made about adversaries or even allies. (Whereas the Trump campaign emails are probably in their own category of insanity.) What we see in the Podesta emails is the grist of political life. It’s doesn’t make our politicians fundamentally dishonest or our democracy a sham.

After seeing how the Clinton sausage got ground, perhaps the voting public will now be more likely to view the contents of stolen emails through the prism of political reality. Without a truly scandalous bombshell, each subsequent cyberattack on Clinton’s team, or that of another politician, may be greeted with bigger and bigger shrugs.

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link to this extract


Yes, we can validate the Wikileaks emails • Errata Security

Rob Graham:

»

Recently, WikiLeaks has released emails from Democrats. Many have repeatedly claimed that some of these emails are fake or have been modified, that there’s no way to validate each and every one of them as being true. Actually, there is, using a mechanism called DKIM.

DKIM is a system designed to stop spam. It works by verifying the sender of the email. Moreover, as a side effect, it verifies that the email has not been altered.

Hillary’s team uses “hillaryclinton.com”, which as DKIM enabled. Thus, we can verify whether some of these emails are true.

Recently, in response to a leaked email suggesting Donna Brazile gave Hillary’s team early access to [Democrat-on-Democrat] debate questions [in March, against Bernie Saunders], she defended herself by suggesting the email had been “doctored” or “falsified”. That’s not true. We can use DKIM to verify it.

«

Brazile was caught bang to rights (though it was probably unnecessary for the Clinton team to see the questions). But it’s good to know we can do this to validate emails for future leaks, which one can feel sure we will see.
link to this extract


Banning tablets is best for children • WSJ

Christopher Mims:

»

A funny thing happened when I banned tablets in my house on weekdays and curtailed their use on weekends. My children, ages 6 and 4, became less cantankerous. They also became happier, more responsive and engaged in more imaginative play. They rediscovered their toys. Outside the home, they became less demanding and better at self-regulating.

Friday, the American Academy of Pediatrics validated my experiment, recommending that children younger than 18 months get zero screen time, and those ages 2 to 5 be limited to one hour a day—half of its prior recommendation. The group recommended that the hour be “high quality programming” that parents watch with their children.

The academy doesn’t set limits for older children, but suggests curtailing screen time before bedtime and when it conflicts with healthy activities…

…Avoiding social media and email on my phone has certainly made me more available to my children, and has helped shape their behavior. I saw how screens affected my children’s lives, and had to think about how to reintroduce screens. I continue to be surprised by what I’m learning from the exercise, and if you’re a parent of young children, you might be too.

“One of the more troubling things I see as a pediatrician is a child getting an immunization and being handed an iPad or an iPhone to try to comfort them afterward,” says Dr. Christakis. “It often works, but think about what’s being displaced there — what they need is a hug, not an iPhone.”

«

In short: we’re holding them wrong.
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Here’s what I learned about Julian Assange while working alongside him • BuzzFeed News

James Ball:

»

Assange is routinely either so lionised by supporters or demonised by detractors that his real character is lost entirely.

Far from the laptop-obsessed autist he’s often seen as, he’s a charismatic speaker with an easy ability to dominate a room or a conversation. He may have little interest in listening to those around, but he can tell whether or not he has your attention and change his manner to capture it. He has, time and again, proving a savvy media manipulator, marching the mainstream media up the hill and down again to often damp squib press conferences. His technical skills are not in doubt.

What’s often underestimated is his gift for bullshit. Assange can, and does, routinely tell obvious lies: WikiLeaks has deep and involved procedures; WikiLeaks was founded by a group of 12 activists, primarily from China; Israel Shamir never had cables; we have received information that [insert name of WikiLeaks critic] has ties to US intelligence.

At times, these lies are harmless and brilliant: when, on the day the state cables launched, WikiLeaks’ site wasn’t ready (we hadn’t even written the introductory text), the site was kept offline after a short DDoS attack, with Assange tweeting that the site was under an unprecedently huge attack.

Six hours later, when we were done, all eyes were looking: What was so bad in the cables that someone was working so hard to keep the site offline? The dramatic flourish worked, but other lies were dumb and damaging – and quickly erode any kind of trust for those trying to work closely with him.

«

Ball is entirely trustworthy on these points (even though Wikileaks boosters will try to deny this). Terrible headline, but excellent piece pointing out that Assange is far from the simple personality that many portrayals would want you to believe.
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China electronics firm to recall some US products after hacking attack • Reuters

:

»

Chinese firm Hangzhou Xiongmai Technology Co Ltd said it will recall some of its products sold in the United States after it was identified by security researchers as having made parts for devices that were targeted in a major hacking attack on Friday.

Hackers unleashed a complex attack on the Internet through common devices like webcams and digital recorders, and cut access to some of the world’s best known websites in a stunning breach of global internet stability.

The electronics components firm, which makes parts for surveillance cameras, said in a statement on its official microblog that it would recall some of its earlier products sold in the United States, strengthen password functions and send users a patch for products made before April last year.

«

It’s a start. Though one that shouldn’t have to be made.
link to this extract


Not transparent, certainly not accountable: Google and the Right To Be Forgotten • Eerke Boiten’s blog

Boiten went to an event in London on RTBF, where Google’s European PR Peter Barron was on the panel:

»

Accountability is even more central to my second point. Barron talked at some length about notifications – i.e., when something has been delisted, the publisher of the information is informed of this by Google. I have argued before that this is done in the first place to stir up a censorship storm. I concede Barron’s comment that these storms have subsided a little now (though several newspapers and the BBC still publish delistings – you will understand why I won’t link to those).

Barron’s justification for these notifications sounded quite credible. Delistings interfere with the publishers’ rights, so they deserve to be told. However, we need to examine that very closely. If Google does something, on behalf of an “injured” third party, that removes a publication from certain search results, Google wishes to be accountable to the publisher for the interference with their rights. So what if Google does something on its own behalf that removes a publication from certain search results? Or just moves it down so far the search results that it is effectively deleted? Would Google admit that the outcome of PageRank incurs an accountability to the web page publishers for how highly ranked their pages are? And, given that there are no third parties involved, would Google seek to accommodate challenges to ranking outcomes on the basis of publishers’ listing rights being infringed? Of course not.

So Google’s “accountability” through notifications is extremely selective. Google chooses to be “accountable” for something it doesn’t want to be doing and for which it can lay the blame elsewhere. It supports naive journalists in their view that Google search is a public good that presents an objective view of the world which gets distorted by RtbF.

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link to this extract


From Dropbox to iCloud Drive: a review and some thoughts • Finer Things in Tech

David Chartier has shifted 1TB of stuff from Dropbox over to iCloud Drive:

»

For personal uses, iCloud Drive has performed pretty well for me the past couple months. The speed of saving files to and retrieving files from iCloud Drive feels on par with Dropbox on both iOS and Mac, thanks in part to improvements in macOS Sierra. However, I should restate that I do much less collaboration with raw files these days. I create and manage nearly all of my work in apps and services like Ulysses, Quip, Todoist, and Trello, then share or publish it with others in online systems like WordPress (this site), Weebly (my personal and business sites), Quip, or Google Drive. Of course, your mileage will vary.

The few raw files I still work with are things like PDF books I download, or media resources I snag from Unsplash, Envato, and elsewhere for content and blogging. If I need to receive files, I can of course still use my free Dropbox space, or I can visit Dropbox share links in a browser on any device. When it’s time to share files with others, Dropbox can still work, but so can Droplr.

Others who have made this transition told me there’s a noticeable performance boost to be had by uninstalling Dropbox from a Mac, which I just did yesterday. They weren’t kidding.

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Removing Dropbox speeds things up? This is getting worse and worse.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: Facebook’s news problem, LG dumps modular, the IoT’s weak spots, Ikea’s economics, and more


Google’s aiming to get rid of the unknowns when you browse the web. Photo by Paul Jacobson on Flickr.

Hello web readers! You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam. Email readers, don’t read this.

A selection of 12 links for you. May contain truth. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Facebook employees pushed to remove Trump’s posts as hate speech • WSJ

Deepa Seetharaman:

»

Facebook—which stands to collect an estimated $300 million from online political advertising this year, according to Nomura analysts—has strived to appear nonpartisan and neutral, amid complaints that the company and key executives favor Democrats. A May report from tech blog Gizmodo alleged Facebook contract workers manipulated its trending topics feature for political purposes. Facebook denied bias, but in August, fired the contractors so that it could run the feature largely by software.

“They are confronting in a very real way for the first time the political dimensions of their platform,” said Anna Lauren Hoffmann, who teaches information ethics at the University of California, Berkeley.

About 44% of Americans get at least some of their news from Facebook, according to Pew Research.

The company insists it is a neutral platform for open debate. Yet it has strict rules around what users can post. The rules, which Facebook has tightened in recent years, ban discrimination toward people based on their race and religion. Facebook typically removes content that violates the rules.

Legal experts say Facebook isn’t bound by the Federal Communications Commission’s equal-time rules, which require radio stations and broadcast networks, with exceptions, to devote the same airtime to political candidates.

Issues around Mr. Trump’s posts emerged when he posted on Facebook a link to a Dec. 7 campaign statement “on preventing Muslim immigration.” The statement called for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Mr. Trump has since backed away from an outright ban based on religion, saying his policies would target immigrants from countries with a record of terrorism.

Users flagged the December content as hate speech, a move that triggered a review by Facebook’s community-operations team, with hundreds of employees in several offices world-wide.

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Among those who complained directly to Zuckerberg was a Muslim. Facebook has a growing problem: either it gives this stuff to machines (which would probably zap Trump’s posts – so you’d need human oversight) or you accept that you have to do it by humans. So looks like it’s humans, in which case you get called out for your inconsistencies.
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The cheap phone is dead in China – Bloomberg

Bruce Einhorn:

»

Huawei, Oppo, and Vivo all make phones that stack up well against most iPhones and Galaxies, and together they ship 40% of the world’s phones in the $500-and-up category that Apple and Samsung dominate.

The average sales price for those leading three Chinese brands has risen above $300, says Jessie Ding, an analyst in Shanghai with market research company Canalys. “People want more premium phones,” she says. “People are now thinking about good quality and service instead of just low prices.” That’s one reason Beijing-based Xiaomi, which made a splash in 2014 and 2015 selling inexpensive devices, has faded; its average phone sales price is about $180.

As their ambitions grow, China’s phone makers are benefiting from a unique agreement the government reached with Qualcomm in 2015. To settle antitrust charges, the San Diego chipmaker agreed to pay a fine of $975m and reduce the royalties it charges in China. Royalties on Qualcomm’s industry-standard technology there are now based on 65% of a given phone’s in-country sales price, not 100%.

«

Helpful of the Chinese government. But that trend towards more expensive devices is one to watch.
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Akamai finds longtime security flaw on two million Internet of Things devices • WIRED

Lily Hay Newman:

»

It’s well known that the Internet of Things is woefully insecure, but the most shameful and frustrating part is that some of the vulnerabilities that are currently being exploited could have been eradicated years ago. Now evidence of how these bugs are being used in attacks is calling attention to security holes that are long overdue to be plugged.

New research released this week from the content delivery network Akamai takes a closer look at how hackers are abusing weaknesses in a cryptographic protocol to commandeer millions of ordinary connected devices — routers, cable modems, satellite TV equipment, and DVRs — and then coordinate them to mount attacks. After analyzing IP address data from its Cloud Security Intelligence platform, Akamai estimates that more than 2 million devices have been compromised by this type of hack, which it calls SSHowDowN. The company also says that at least 11 of its customers — in industries like financial services, retail, hospitality, and gaming — have been targets of this attack.

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link to this extract


The Insecurity of Things: part two • Xipiter

Stephen Ridley:

»

With some really dead-simple techniques this device was easily compromised. Furthermore not only can you attack your own device, but an attacker could (without purchasing a device) potentially just download the firmware image from the manufacturer (as linked from the manufacturer’s wiki), extract the filesystem image using binwalk and unsquashfs, and navigate to the right directories on the filesystem to retrieve the ssh private keys used to access the manufacturers backend.

From there potentially (if SSH works the way we think it does), this key can be used to access ALL THE OTHER devices like it in the world currently connected to the internet. It should be noted that as the interns discovered these vulnerabilities in this device, they found “prior art” vulnerabilities found by D. Crowley (then of Trustwave Spider Labs) although there was no explicit mention of the ability to potentially access all the other devices via the manufacturer’s servers (via the hardcoded SSH keys).

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Basically, showing how you’d take over one of those IoT devices which brought down a chunk of the internet last week.
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Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon is frustrated by his Apple iPad • Fortune

Barb Darrow:

»

Earlier this week, New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick unleashed an atypical, long-winded rant (six minutes!) about his mis-behaving Microsoft Surface device. Earlier in the month, he was seen on national TV spiking the tablet.

On Wednesday, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon had to deal with a malfunctioning Apple iPad before the fourth game of the National League Championship Series (NLCS).

Fox’s fox FS1 commentators noted that Maddon couldn’t use his iPad to enter lineups before the game between the Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers, causing him to spend 90 minutes with technical support before the game to address the issue. Apparently, it was a futile effort because he ended up using his phone to do the job.

It was unclear whether the problem was with the device itself, the software running it, the wireless network—or some combination of all of the above.

«

Can’t do real work on tablets, I guess. (Thanks @papnic for the link.)
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The Independent returns to profit after axing newspaper • FT

David Bond:

»

The company says its digital switch has been vindicated by significant growth online — from 15.8m unique users in February to 21m in June ahead of the UK’s referendum on EU membership, before falling back to 16.2m in August, according to ComScore, the research firm.

By comparison, ComScore said Mail Online was the biggest newspaper website in the UK with 26.4m unique users in August, while the Guardian had 24m.

Separate figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulation show the Independent had 74.3m unique browsers in August 2016 — a 41% year-on-year increase. Its Facebook page has 5m likes — 1.3m more than the Telegraph.

The company says its digital advertising revenues have grown by 45% year on year and that it is likely to record about £20m of revenues in 2016.

With a younger staff on lower salaries and no printing or distribution costs, the Independent said it now had a sustainable long-term future.

«

Unexpected. But that last paragraph probably sums it up. Also a smaller staff.
link to this extract


The weird economics of Ikea • FiveThirtyEight

Oliver Roeder:

»

Although [Boston University economist Marianne] Baxter can’t yet prove its particulars — more data cleaning and analysis is necessary for her ultimate Ikea project — there is a sort of evolutionary dynamic at play in the annual Ikea catalog: survival of the fittest furniture. She noticed that the company tends to discontinue products that remain expensive. “If they can’t figure out how to make them more cheaply, or retool them or slightly redesign them, it seems like the things disappear,” she said.

Indeed, the products have evolved. In 1992, part of the Poäng was changed from steel to wood, allowing the chair to ship more densely and efficiently in the company’s flat packs. (“Shipping air is very expensive,” [Ikea product PR manager Marty] Marston said.) And the Lack table was changed from solid wood to a honeycomb “board on frame” construction, decreasing production costs and increasing shipping efficiency. Baxter theorizes, though, that if a product is finicky — requiring design in Sweden, manufacture in China and intricate pieces from Switzerland, say — it may eventually be abandoned.

Marston thought the Darwinian idea was interesting, but that the deletions from the catalog were less about persistently high prices and more about popularity. “If a product doesn’t perform well — we have certain sales expectations — then it will cease to exist. The public didn’t like it for some reason, so why continue to sell it?” she said.

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link to this extract


Apple approached Time Warner about possible merger before AT&T talks • WSJ

Shalini Ramachandran, Dana Mattioli and Keach Hagey:

»

Apple approached Time Warner about pursuing a combination a few months ago, and though the discussions didn’t progress beyond a preliminary stage, Apple is now monitoring the media giant’s talks with AT+T, people familiar with the matter said Friday.

AT+T is now in advanced talks to purchase Time Warner, The Wall Street Journal has reported, and a deal could come together within days…

…From Apple’s end, executives under Chief Executive Tim Cook were involved in the earlier talks. Apple has pursued plans to build an online TV service and has begun creating original programming of its own. Before its most recent approach, Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of internet software and services, brought up a potential combination in a meeting with Time Warner’s head of corporate strategy Olaf Olafsson last year, the people said, though the talks never went further than that. The Financial Times earlier reported last year’s approach.

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Crazy. Then again, if the cars thing isn’t going to work…
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LG Electronics to eliminate ‘modules’ for its next smartphone (G6) • Korean Electronics News

Keonil Yun:

»

LG Electronics is not going to apply modularized structure for its next strategic Smartphone called ‘G6 (tentative)’ that is expected to be released in 2017. It is basically withdrawing its strategy of modularization that was first introduced to G5 in just a year.

According to an industry on the 20th, LG Electronics has decided not to apply modularized Smartphone structure, which was introduced for G5, for G6. It is currently developing G6 according to internal policies. G6 is expected to have an integral structure just like previous LG Smartphones and other products.

“It is heard that LG Electronics has decided not to modularize its next Smartphone.” said multiple representatives from multiple industries. “Corresponding products such as boards and audio chips are currently being prepared accordingly.”

LG Electronics released world’s first modularized Smartphone called G5 at the end of March. Because bottom part of this product can be separated, users can attach additional devices such as audio module or camera module.

At that time, it had drawn huge attention since it was a new attempt that was not done before to previous Smartphones. However LG Electronics was not able to achieve results that it expected because need for modules was not really needed when people have actually started using G5…

…It is heard that LG Electronics is internally worried from withdrawing its modularization strategy. It can possibly lose trust from markets after changing its strategy in just a year and devices that were sold can be useless since they won’t be compatible with Smartphones that will be released in the future.

LG Electronics is focusing on not repeating its mistakes. Also it is planning to restore its benefits through stable products rather than having to put up with risks.

“It probably was not easy for LG Electronics to put up with risks since its Smartphone business is already not doing too well.” said a representative for an industry.

«

Let’s see.. we were told LG “will keep toying around” with the modular idea back in the summer. Back in February, I said that “Modularity in the handset kills premium pricing even faster than OS modularity.” In between we’ve seen the death of Project Ara. Motorola is trying it, in a small way; given its losses, I don’t think it will stick with it. Guess modular smartphones aren’t destined to be a thing.
link to this extract


Google has quietly dropped ban on personally identifiable web tracking – ProPublica

Julia Angwin:

»

this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand – literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits “may be” combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools.

The change is enabled by default for new Google accounts. Existing users were prompted to opt-in to the change this summer.

The practical result of the change is that the DoubleClick ads that follow people around on the web may now be customized to them based on the keywords they used in their Gmail. It also means that Google could now, if it wished to, build a complete portrait of a user by name, based on everything they write in email, every website they visit and the searches they conduct.

The move is a sea change for Google and a further blow to the online ad industry’s longstanding contention that web tracking is mostly anonymous. In recent years, Facebook, offline data brokers and others have increasingly sought to combine their troves of web tracking data with people’s real names. But until this summer, Google held the line.

“The fact that DoubleClick data wasn’t being regularly connected to personally identifiable information was a really significant last stand,” said Paul Ohm, faculty director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law…

…Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville emailed a statement describing Google’s change in privacy policy as an update to adjust to the “smartphone revolution”

“We updated our ads system, and the associated user controls, to match the way people use Google today: across many different devices,” Faville wrote. She added that the change “is 100% optional – if users do not opt-in to these changes, their Google experience will remain unchanged.”

«

Personalised ads earn more, and Google now needs to earn more from mobile ads as desktop gets ever less important.
link to this extract


There is a blind spot in AI research • Nature News & Comment

Kate Crawford and Ryan Calo:

»

“People worry that computers will get too smart and take over the world, but the real problem is that they’re too stupid and they’ve already taken over the world.” This is how computer scientist Pedro Domingos sums up the issue in his 2015 book The Master Algorithm. Even the many researchers who reject the prospect of a ‘technological singularity’ — saying the field is too young — support the introduction of relatively untested AI systems into social institutions…

…As a first step, researchers — across a range of disciplines, government departments and industry — need to start investigating how differences in communities’ access to information, wealth and basic services shape the data that AI systems train on.

Take, for example, the algorithm-generated ‘heat maps’ used in Chicago, Illinois, to identify people who are most likely to be involved in a shooting. A study8 published last month indicates that such maps are ineffective: they increase the likelihood that certain people will be targeted by the police, but do not reduce crime.

A social-systems approach would consider the social and political history of the data on which the heat maps are based. This might require consulting members of the community and weighing police data against this feedback, both positive and negative, about the neighbourhood policing. It could also mean factoring in findings by oversight committees and legal institutions. A social-systems analysis would also ask whether the risks and rewards of the system are being applied evenly — so in this case, whether the police are using similar techniques to identify which officers are likely to engage in misconduct, say, or violence.

«

link to this extract


Slow-motion wrecks: how thawing permafrost is destroying Arctic cities • The Guardian

Alec Luhn, in Norilsk:

»

Cracking and collapsing structures are a growing problem in cities like Norilsk – a nickel-producing centre of 177,000 people located 180 miles above the Arctic Circle – as climate change thaws the perennially frozen soil and increases precipitation. Valery Tereshkov, deputy head of the emergencies ministry in the Krasnoyarsk region, wrote in an article this year that almost 60% of all buildings in Norilsk have been deformed as a result of climate change shrinking the permafrost zone. Local engineers said more than 100 residential buildings, or one-tenth of the housing fund, have been vacated here due to damage from thawing permafrost.

In most cases, these are slow-motion wrecks that can be patched up or prevented by engineering solutions. But if a foundation shifts suddenly it can put lives at risk: cement slabs broke a doctor’s legs when the front steps and overhanging roof of a Norilsk blood bank collapsed in June 2015. Building and maintenance costs will have to be ramped up to keep cities in Russia’s resource-rich north running.

Engineers and geologists are careful to note that “technogenic factors” like sewer and building heat and chemical pollution are also warming the permafrost in places like Norilsk, the most polluted city in Russia. But climate change is deepening the thaw and speeding up the destruction, at the very same time that Russia is establishing new military bases and oil-drilling infrastructure across the Arctic. Greenpeace has warned that permafrost thawing has caused thousands of oil and gas pipeline breaks.

«

Have a look at the temperatures in Norilsk on your favourite weather app. It’s damn cold. But not cold enough any longer, it seems.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: Musically’s silent revolution, Nintendo Switch-es, Intel slows iPhones, grading Pixels, and more


Crazy untruthful partisan posts get shared more on Facebook. Photo by torbakhopper on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Flim-flam free. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Musical.ly’s teenage revolution: how the trend-setting lip-sync app is changing the music industry • Billboard

Chris Martins:

»

Musical.ly is many things: a hit mobile app that topped the iOS App Store Free chart in July 2015 and hasn’t fallen from the top 40 since; a scorching-hot startup with a $500 million valuation (as estimated by TechCrunch in May) and more than 133 million “Musers” worldwide; and a promotional platform embraced by the music industry for its ability to translate song clips into streams and sales. And with half of all American teens (according to the company’s estimate) using the app, Musical.ly has become a bona fide cultural phenomenon, even inspiring pearl-clutching among “olds,” from parents fretting over sexualized youth and online predators to traditionalists questioning the artistic validity of lip-syncing. It may not be Elvis thrusting his hips or Public Enemy speaking truth to power — but then again, would anyone who’s not a teen admit it if Musical.ly did represent a new frontier in pop?

Like any youthquake, some savvy adults set off the first tremors. “It was organic growth — word-of-mouth,” is how Alex Hofmann, Musical.ly’s 35-year-old president of North America, explains the app’s leap from 10 million total users one year ago to now, when 13 million are added every month. “Teens on other platforms would see someone share a Musical.ly video, like it, download the app and then ask their friends to try it.”

«

link to this extract


Security bug lifetime • codeblog

Kees Cook:

»

In several of my recent presentations, I’ve discussed the lifetime of security flaws in the Linux kernel. Jon Corbet did an analysis in 2010, and found that security bugs appeared to have roughly a 5 year lifetime. As in, the flaw gets introduced in a Linux release, and then goes unnoticed by upstream developers until another release 5 years later, on average. I updated this research for 2011 through 2016, and used the Ubuntu Security Team’s CVE Tracker to assist in the process. The Ubuntu kernel team already does the hard work of trying to identify when flaws were introduced in the kernel, so I didn’t have to re-do this for the 557 kernel CVEs since 2011.

«

Spoiler: it’s still five years. Many eyes don’t do much to bugs. Given how many IoT things rely on Linux, this is concerning.
link to this extract


Hyperpartisan Facebook pages are publishing false and misleading information at an alarming rate • BuzzFeed News

Craig Silverman:

»

The rapid growth of these pages combines with BuzzFeed News’ findings to suggest a troubling conclusion: The best way to attract and grow an audience for political content on the world’s biggest social network is to eschew factual reporting and instead play to partisan biases using false or misleading information that simply tells people what they want to hear. This approach has precursors in partisan print and television media, but has gained a new scale of distribution on Facebook. And while it isn’t a solely American phenomenon — the British Labour party found powerful support from a similar voice — these pages are central to understanding a profoundly polarized moment in American life.

For example, in late September, Freedom Daily, a Facebook page with more than 1 million fans, scored a viral hit with a post that filled its audience with racial outrage.

The post linked to an article on the Freedom Daily website with the headline “Two White Men Doused With Gasoline, Set On FIRE By Blacks – Media CENSORED (VIDEO).” The text that accompanied the link on Facebook connected the attack to recent Black Lives Matter protests and urged people to share the post “if you’re angry as hell & aren’t going to take it anymore!”

«

Social media abhors the vacuum of reasonableness.
link to this extract


Nintendo’s next console, Switch, is a console/tablet hybrid coming in March • Ars Technica

Kyle Orland:

»

In a three-minute “Preview Trailer” released this morning (and teased last night), Nintendo gave the world the first glimpse of the mysterious “Project NX,” over 19 months after the company first mentioned the “dedicated game platform with a brand-new concept.” The system is called the Nintendo Switch.

As was widely rumored, that “new concept” involves a console/portable hybrid system with two detachable, one-handed controllers that sit alongside a tablet-style screen. Nintendo is referring to these publicly as “Joy-Con” controllers, which “can be employed by numerous people for a variety of gameplay options. They can easily click back into place or be slipped into a Joy-Con Grip accessory, mirroring a more traditional controller.” The system will also support a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller with a more traditional dual-analog stick form factor, and support local multiplayer gaming on multiple Switch tablets at once, according to a press release.

“In addition to providing single and multiplayer thrills at home, the Nintendo Switch system also enables gamers to play the same title wherever, whenever and with whomever they choose,” Nintendo said in a press release announcing the system. “The mobility of a handheld is now added to the power of a home gaming system to enable unprecedented new video game play styles.”

«

I don’t understand why in October you would announce something that won’t be available until March. I believe that a very popular shopping season occurs in between those two dates.

(Also: looks bonkers.)
link to this extract


LeEco’s big vision for the US needs fleshing out • Tech.pinions

Jan Dawson on the latest Chinese entrant hoping to make it big in the US:

»

Aside from the unfinished content story, LeEco’s other big challenge will be branding and marketing. Today, the brand is entirely unfamiliar to US customers, although the company did acquire TV maker Vizio recently. Unless that changes, none of the ecosystem or other benefits the company talked up on Wednesday will make any difference, because no one will ever know about them. LeEco talked up the economic benefits of its direct sales model (its LeMall website is a sort of single-brand Amazon) in terms of cutting out middlemen and reducing marketing and branding spend but the big disadvantage of going online-only is customers won’t encounter the LeEco brand in familiar stores. Vizio TVs will presumably continue to be offered through third-party distribution but it’s less clear that LeEco-branded devices will be.

The other major Chinese consumer tech companies have used both wireless carrier relationships and sponsorships of sports teams and events to gradually familiarize US consumers with their brands but it’s unclear whether LeEco has any similar plans. Starting from the ground up without either third party distribution or a massive brand awareness campaign seems like a recipe for failure. It doesn’t help that, as executives joked on stage, the “Le-” prefix conjures up misleading French associations, as well as being plain awkward when it’s so widely and inconsistently used (some sub-brands use the Le prefix joined to a word, like LeEco, while others use it as a separate prefix, as in the Le Pro3 phone, while the Eco element is used separately in lower case names for product lines like “ecophones” and “ecotvs”).

«

I definitely would have thought that LeEco was a French company if not told otherwise.
link to this extract


Agony, alarm and anger for people hurt by Theranos’s botched blood tests • WSJ

Christopher Weaver:

»

The Journal interviewed more than a dozen patients who got improbable test results from the California lab or Theranos’s other lab in Arizona, including some relating to tests that haven’t been voided or revised. Patients are still grappling with unanswered questions about their results.

The Journal also reviewed undisclosed regulatory documents that quantify the severity of Theranos’s accuracy problems.

Notes from the CMS inspection show that 834 out of 2,890 quality-control checks run on the Edison in October 2014, or 29%, exceeded the company’s threshold of two standard deviations from its average result. Standard deviation is a statistical measurement of variation.

In addition, 80% of the 834 quality-control checks that raised a red flag under Theranos’s internal standards were more than three standard deviations from its average result, the inspection notes show. Theranos has told regulators it used the Edison from November 2013 to June 2015.

«

Numbers on a page, but people on the receiving end: this is the sharp end of overconfident funding.
link to this extract


Zeynep’s Eclectics by zeynep tufekci


»

An eclectic newsletter! My thoughts and notes that are too long for Twitter, not polished enough for my New York Times column, and not ready or a good fit for Facebook or elsewhere. Also notes and reactions about books I’m reading, the cutting room floor from my articles in the New York Times and elsewhere. I’ll include updates as well. None of this is secret, but I’m not archiving my newsletters publicly.

«

Tufekci is so smart; if you’re not following her on Twitter, you should be. This is a must-subscribe. (No indication yet on how often it will come out.)
link to this extract


Hillary Clinton’s three debate performances left the Trump campaign in ruins • Vox

Ezra Klein:

»

Clinton was able to make Trump’s treatment of women the issue in part because she and her campaign had prepared to make Trump’s treatment of women the issue, and in part because she is a woman and her assault on Trump flummoxed his usual mode of defense, which is to dominate and insult the other men on the stage. By the end of the final debate, Trump was reduce to spitting that Clinton was “such a nasty woman,” a line that spoke to both his horror at being challenged by a woman and his complete inability to control what came out of his mouth after 80 minutes on a stage with Clinton.

Two things have been true throughout the debates. One is that Trump has been, at every turn, underprepared, undisciplined, and operating completely without a strategy. In one of the third debate’s most unintentionally revealing moments, Trump said, “I sat in my apartment today … watching ad after false ad, all paid for by your friends on Wall Street,” an inadvertent admission that he was inhaling cable news when he should have been prepping for the debate.

But the other reality is that Clinton has been, at every turn, prepared, disciplined, and coldly strategic. She triggered Trump’s epic meltdown purposely, and kept Trump off balance over multiple weeks that probably represented his last chance to turn the election around.

«

As Klein also points out, her insistence on constantly addressing him as “Donald” seems to have peeved him. Why? Who knows – but that’s the sort of thing that good opposition research finds out. Trump’s team, by contrast, never seems to have found the secret to rattling her.
link to this extract


Debate over: IBM confirms that Macs are $535 less expensive than PCs • Jamf

Jni Asaba:

»

In 2015, IBM let their employees decide – Windows or Mac. “The goal was to deliver a great employee choice program and strive to achieve the best Mac program,” Previn said. An emerging favorite meant the deployment of 30,000 Macs over the course of the year. But that number has grown. With more employees choosing Mac than ever before, the company now has 90,000 deployed (with only five admins supporting them), making it the largest Mac deployment on earth.

But isn’t it expensive, and doesn’t it overload IT? No. IBM found that not only do PCs drive twice the amount of support calls, they’re also three times more expensive. That’s right, depending on the model, IBM is saving anywhere from $273 – $543 per Mac compared to a PC, over a four-year lifespan. “And this reflects the best pricing we’ve ever gotten from Microsoft,” Previn said. Multiply that number by the 100,000+ Macs IBM expects to have deployed by the end of the year, and we’re talking some serious savings.

Needless to say, the employees at IBM got it right. And with 73% of them saying they want their next computer to be a Mac, the success will only increase with time.

«

Geez, I thought this debate had been settled in the 1990s, but OK. Five admins is pretty impressive. (How many said “I want a Linux machine”?)
link to this extract


Pixel, iPhone 7, and grading on a curve • iMore

Rene Ritchie:

»

They were segmented like iPhones, priced like iPhones, and they even looked like iPhones — roughly the same shape, with the same “ugly” antenna lines, and the same big-chin-and-forehead bezels. (Despite not having a Home button on the bottom front.)

Google made a point of how they controlled the hardware this time, from design to features. Google could have made the Pixel look like anything — like a Galaxy S7 Edge, like an LG G5, like a Moto X, or like something completely new and refreshing. Google carefully, deliberately, chose to make it look like an iPhone 6s, though. And that means they get to own that choice. As do we.

So, everyone who’d been criticizing Apple and iPhone design immediately called Google out for aping it?

Not so much.

Well, at least they called Google and Pixel out for the same things they called Apple and iPhone out for?

Again, not so much.

Surely they drew the line at Google’s 2016 flagship missing optical image stabilization — not just in the regular-size, but in the Plus XL model as well — stereo speakers, and water resistance — things that were pointed to last year as indicators Apple was falling behind?

Turns out, not deal-breakers either.

It’s almost like the Pixel is being graded on a curve. And that’s terrible for consumers. “You slagged iPhone for XYZ, but now that Google has XYZ, but is missing ABC, it’s the greatest thing ever? Um…. close browser, delete bookmark!”

«

The tech press’s view of Google, and especially its (many) hardware efforts, bears examination. There’s a lot of contradiction in there.
link to this extract


Feds walk into a building, demand everyone’s fingerprints to open phones • Forbes

Thomas Fox-Brewster:

»

In what’s believed to be an unprecedented attempt to bypass the security of Apple iPhones, or any smartphone that uses fingerprints to unlock, California’s top cops asked to enter a residence and force anyone inside to use their biometric information to open their mobile devices.

FORBES found a court filing, dated May 9 2016, in which the Department of Justice sought to search a Lancaster, California, property. But there was a more remarkable aspect of the search, as pointed out in the memorandum: “authorization to depress the fingerprints and thumbprints of every person who is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES during the execution of the search and who is reasonably believed by law enforcement to be the user of a fingerprint sensor-enabled device that is located at the SUBJECT PREMISES and falls within the scope of the warrant.” The warrant was not available to the public, nor were other documents related to the case.

«

That’s not how warrants should work. But legal precedent suggests that taking fingerprints, even without permission, doesn’t break US law. Question: can you force someone to apply their fingerprint to something they own?
link to this extract


iPhone 7 Plus: a tale of two personalities • Cellular Insights

“Milan MP” put the Qualcomm LTE modem up against the Intel LTE modem in the two models of iPhone to the test. The Intel one performs poorly:

»

To put this into perspective, we have compared the edge of cell performance of a few other flagship devices to see how these iPhones compare in less than favorable conditions:

In all tests, the iPhone 7 Plus with the Qualcomm modem had a significant performance edge over the iPhone 7 Plus with the Intel modem. We are not sure what was the main reason behind Apple’s decision to source two different modem suppliers for the newest iPhone. Considering that the iPhone with the Qualcomm modem is being sold in China, Japan and in the United States only, we can not imagine that modem performance was a deciding factor.

«

When you have multiple suppliers, it’s almost certain you’ll get variation between them. In something like this, Intel is so far behind it’s not funny.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: for another view on Bill Belichick dumping the tablets, read Peter Bright at Ars Technica: Patriots’ Bill Belichick dumps Surface tablets in five minute rant. Still not sure it’s great for Microsoft’s reputation.

Start up: judging Assistant, Trump’s death march, Apple at MWC?, iPlayer fades on mobile, and more


See the guy in the middle not using a Microsoft Surface? That’s Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots. Photo by FLC on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Use as shampoo at own risk. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Scientists accidentally discover efficient process to turn CO2 into ethanol • Popular Mechanics

Avery Thompson:

»

Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect.

The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles.

The tech involves a new combination of copper and carbon arranged into nanospikes on a silicon surface. The nanotechnology allows the reactions to be very precise, with very few contaminants.

«

I’ll drink to that.
link to this extract


Good enough defeats great • Chuqui.com

Chuq von Rospach:

»

Photography is more popular now than ever before with billions of new images being created each day. And that’s what’s really driving the changes in photography and the thing so many photographers have trouble understanding: the value in their images was in scarcity, not in their skill. And as imagery becomes increasingly available and the technology of cameras makes it easier and easier to take better images, which shrinks the part of photography where a professional photographer adds value.

Or more precisely, where a professional photographer adds value that a buyer cares about, because when something becomes “good enough” the buyer really doesn’t care how much better yours is. At that point, price and discoverability win.

“Good enough” wins, and it will kill great, because the number of people who care about great is too small to sustain a big industry.

It can sustain a small industry, and that’s what photography is turning into: effectively, if you shoot with a DLSR or a Mirrorless system you are now photography’s equivalent of an audiophile, arguing to someone with iTunes Music and a set of earbuds that they really ought to buy this $1200 pre-amp.

Not gonna happen. What they have is good enough.

«

So many people overlook this; the point about audiophiles is particularly apt.
link to this extract


Google Assistant is only an incremental advance over current voice search • Search Engine Land

Greg Sterling:

»

You want it to do more. That was my feeling about the Google Assistant after using the new Pixel XL for several days.

The Pixel is a very nice phone with a great camera and a beautiful screen. It’s going to be a hit. But an iPhone killer it is not.

Google is promoting the Pixel as “The first phone with the Google Assistant built in.” The Google Assistant is useful and holds great promise, but in this “1.0” version, Google has oversold it. What you get is a user experience identical to what Google is delivering in Allo, but with voice playback. Allo’s version of the Assistant is mute.

Danny Sullivan discusses what he feels are shortcomings around Google Assistant usability on MarketingLand. He focuses on the fact that you can’t manually type a question into Google Assistant; it can only be initiated by voice. My frustrations were not focused on that issue so much as the fact that you can’t hold a true “conversation” with the Assistant.

«

I think this is far too short-term. This year’s Pixel is just the very beginning; Google has big plans for Assistant, and for Pixel, and they’re bound together. Judging Assistant on what it’s like today won’t compare with what it’s like in six months, which won’t compare with a year or four years.
link to this extract


Donald Trump is on a presidential death march we’ve never seen before • The Ringer

Tim Miller has been there, done that:

»

On Jeb Bush’s campaign, we experienced one of the most painful and seemingly unending death marches imaginable. From the top of the polls in June to all but dead by October, with three long winter months to go before preliminary voting even began. There are days when you just dream of not getting out of bed and having to see or talk to anyone to just have a momentary respite from the constant reminder of your failure. Any good mood could be stripped away by one glance at your phone revealing a new poll showing the campaign losing ground. It is all-encompassing.

Yet every day you have to wake up with steely resolve and go out into the world and make the case for why you or your candidate are the best person to lead, even when it appears that you will not. Why people should ignore all the polls and the news and the criticism and put their faith in you, even when you’ve already lost faith that you can actually win.

It can be too much for staffers to bear. In 2007, on John McCain’s first death march  —  he resurrected only to march again in 2008  —  I was working for the campaign in Iowa when news came down that there were going to be layoffs. When I was brought into the campaign manager’s office to hear my fate, I am embarrassed to report that I was overcome with despair after I heard the news — I had been retained. My death march was going to continue.

As hard as it is on the staff, it is the candidate who faces the real test.

«

This is so insightful, and so easily forgotten: how do you keep psychologically up when you know you are going to be publicly kicked to hell?
link to this extract


Apple listed as an exhibitor at MWC 2017 • FierceWireless

Colin Gibbs:

»

Apple appears to be scheduled to have an official presence at Mobile World Congress next year in Barcelona in a move that would mark a dramatic shift for the company.

The Mobile Network reported this morning that Apple is listed as an exhibitor on Mobile World Congress’s website, having booked three meeting rooms. The company is scheduled to be in Hall 8 at the App Planet Stand as well as two locations in the walkway stand above Hall 2.

«

This would be a hell of a change. Apple has never, ever exhibited at MWC.
link to this extract


Apple, Samsung, and good design — inside and out • The New Yorker

Om Malik:

»

In 2012, a jury told Samsung to pay a billion dollars in damages to Apple. The award was reduced to five hundred and forty-eight million dollars last year, and Samsung is now challenging about four hundred million of that amount. The Supreme Court will weigh in on whether damages should be awarded based on the entire phone, or just on those parts that infringed Apple’s patents.

That Samsung is facing such steep costs suggests the appeal of the original Apple design. When I asked John Maeda, the former president of the Rhode Island School of Design, why, then, people have turned on the design of the iPhone 7, he pointed out that perhaps these critics “seem to believe that there’s some as yet unimaginable transcendence that can happen in a small, palm-shaped, rectangular device.” Maeda said that he spent time with designers at Sony and felt their frustration designing a television set “because all you can really do is design the rectangle that the TV sits within. . . . Everything else around that screen really doesn’t matter.” The same problem holds for the iPhone. All that matters is the screen—its size, brightness, and resolution. “Now that we have all those dimensions sated, it’s basically the challenge of designing a TV set all over again,” he added.

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link to this extract


Gene therapy is curing haemophilia • MIT Technology Review

Antonio Regalado:

»

Sure, gene therapy has been tried before. What’s different is that Spark’s therapy so far appears to work well every time it’s attempted—a consistency that’s eluded previous efforts. “Right now this looks very close to being as good as it gets,” says Edward Tuddenham, a hematologist at University College London, who led a competing study and consults with some of Spark’s rivals.

The results are satisfying news for people like Maurits, as well as for scientists who’ve struggled for three decades to get gene therapy right. Two gene therapies for ultra-rare inherited disease are approved in Europe, including one cleared last month to treat severe immune deficiency.

But hemophilia could be the big one. It affects about one in 5,000 men (women are rarely affected). And there’s already a lucrative $10-billion-a-year market in blood factor replacements. “Curing hemophilia would be a signal to the marketplace that gene therapy has hit prime time,” says Eric Faulkner, who studies disruptive medicines at Evidera, a consultancy.

Only a larger study will reveal for sure whether Spark’s treatment proves out. “This is four subjects. We are going to need more,” says Katherine High, the hematologist who is Spark’s president and founder. “If you saw that in 40 subjects, then maybe … well, it’s very exciting.”

«

Gene therapy has been a “next year, for sure!” technology for ages. Let’s wait for the bigger test. Wonder how this would go down with the factor IX makers: there’s a lot of money in that business.
link to this extract


The iPlayer is fading away as internet video booms – what is the BBC’s next online trick? #iplayer • Talk About Local

William Perrin in May 2015:

»

In the wider internet beyond the BBC there has been a colossal growth in the use of video – the numbers for this Adobe report in the USA or this for the EU are staggering.  So by comparative standards the iPlayer is struggling.

There are many reasons this might be:

BBC strategy over recent years has been deeply conservative, regarding the internet largely as a form of playout for Radio and TV content, rather than a creative medium in its own right.

video and radio on the iPlayer is served up in huge lumps, whole shows at a time, just like on telly.  It is nearly impossible to share, particularly to someone’s mobile.  If for instance you are daring enough as a humble citizen to disagree with the great creative mind that created the 45 minute show and just want to share with your mates the brilliant bit at 37.45 where Anne gets her head chopped off you can’t link to it – you are forced to link to the whole damn thing – YouTube fixed this years ago.

«

Latest data shows iPlayer usage actually declining on mobile, though growing on TV; this inability to share snippets looks likely to be a cause. But iPlayer has, after its initial shocking success, been allowed to drift; it’s not adapting to the world of short sharing.
link to this extract


Agent of Influence 2.0 • Medium

“The Grugq”, with a criticism of The Intercept’s coverage of the leaked DNC and Hillary Clinton emails, quoting Jeremy Rue of UC Berkeley’s graduate school of journalism:

»

[This post] speaks to a problem in journalism when entities try to use journalists as distributors for their message. Journalists like to claim simply publicizing information doesn’t mean advocating any one side (a form of RT != endorsement) but in a subtle way it always does. By disseminating information, journalists play a significant role in promoting it. Even in an age of social media, journalists still hold an influential role of validating a story. (Just as when people complain that mainstream media isn’t covering an issue, when social media has disseminated it to numbers far beyond what MSM reaches.)

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The Intercept’s reporting on emails which show, surprise, that politicians try to influence journalists has seemed a little pearl-clutching.
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Bill Belichick conference call transcript 10/18 • New England Patriots

Belichick is head coach of the American football team; Microsoft pays the NFL bazillions to get touchline coaches to use Surface tablets. Now read on:

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As you probably noticed, I’m done with the tablets. I’ve given them as much time as I can give them. They’re just too undependable for me. I’m going to stick with pictures as several of our other coaches do as well because there just isn’t enough consistency in the performance of the tablets, so I just can’t take it anymore. The other communication systems involve the press box to the coaches on the field, and then the coach on the field, the signal caller, or the coach-to-quarterback, coach-to-signal caller system. Those fail on a regular basis. There are very few games that we play, home or away, day, night, cold, hot, preseason, regular season, postseason, it doesn’t make any difference; there are very few games where there aren’t issues in some form or fashion with that equipment. And again, there’s a lot of equipment involved, too. There are headsets in the helmets, there’s the belt pack, that communication, there’s a hookup or connection to internet service or that process and so forth with the coaches and the press box. So, there are a number of pieces of equipment, there is a number of connections that are on different frequencies. Again, not that I know anything about this but as it has been explained to me there are a lot of things involved and inevitably something goes wrong somewhere at some point in time. I would say weekly we have to deal with something. Dan Famosi is our IT person and he does a great job of handling those things. This is all league equipment so we don’t have it. I mean we use it but it isn’t like we have the equipment during the week and we can work with it and ‘OK, this is a problem. Let’s fix this.’ That’s not how it works. We get the equipment the day of the game, or I’d say not the day of the game but a few hours before the game and we test it and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

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The branding is so good he doesn’t even know their name.
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Peak iPhone carrier expansion strategy • The Technalyzer

Eduardo Archanco:

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The iPhone carrier expansion strategy had a clear goal for Apple: support the growth of its new business. The above graph shows us how little Apple earned with the iPhone in its early years. Not even $15 billion between 2007 and 2009.

But something happened in 2010 and 2011. In 2010, revenues doubled the amount generated in the three previous years (from $15 billion in 2007, 2008 and 2009 to $30 billion in 2010). In 2011, revenues doubled again, from $30 billion to $60 billion.

What was going on?

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This is a great piece of research, which bears out a simple metric: the more phone carriers you’re on, the more phones you’ll tend to sell. But it’s the subtleties of regions that tells the important story.
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Twitter goes virtual reality: hires team, preps Periscope 360 video • Variety

Janko Roettgers:

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Twitter has hired AngelHack founder Gregory Gopman to work on its nascent virtual reality (VR) initiative, Variety has learned. The company may add native 360-degree video integration as well as 360-degree video live streaming to its products in the coming months.

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Very hard to know why anyone at Twitter thinks this is a good idea when it is bleeding red ink, hugely overstaffed and is not going to be bought by anyone.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: why Disney dropped Twitter, why Thiel?, the fake social graph, selfie passwords, and more


Your first port of call to see Apple and Google’s newest trademarks. Photo by kingston99 on Flickr.


Thanks to all those who came to my talk on Tuesday evening in London on “Social networks and the truth”. I’ll aim to put up the slides, with some commentary, on this site in the next week or so.


You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Effortless. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Shame on Y Combinator • Marco.org

Marco Arment:

»Y Combinator is extremely influential in tech startups and startup culture.

Peter Thiel, an investor who often participates in Y Combinator, is donating $1.25m to Donald Trump’s political efforts, which has incited outrage among the tech community with many calling for Y Combinator to sever ties with Thiel.

Y Combinator has apparently decided not to. President Sam Altman defended this position in a blog post, framed as a Clinton endorsement, that begins with a partial overview of how reprehensible and dangerous Trump is, but ends with a defense of continuing Thiel’s involvement in Y Combinator that’s effectively framed as a free-speech or tolerance issue.

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Altman ties himself in knots, suggesting that having Thiel around is a sort of “diversity” thing. That’s right – what Y Combinator’s board really needs is a gay right-wing rich white man, to balance out all those straight left-wing rich white men.

Arment is having none of it:

»Wrapping reprehensible statements or actions as “political beliefs” doesn’t protect them or exempt their supporters from consequences. Racism is racism. Sexual assault is sexual assault. Labeling reprehensible positions as “political beliefs” is a cowardly, meaningless shield.

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Expect this to develop over the next week or so. Altman is going to wake up with the cognitive dissonance pinging around his brain.
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Disney dropped Twitter pursuit partly over image • Bloomberg

Alex Sherman , Chris Palmeri , and Sarah Frier:

»Walt Disney Co. decided not to pursue a bid for Twitter Inc. partly out of concern that bullying and other uncivil forms of communication on the social media site might soil the company’s wholesome family image, according to people familiar with management’s thinking.

The producer of family fare like “Finding Dory” had gone so far as to hire two investment banks, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Guggenheim Partners LLC, to help evaluate a bid for Twitter. Disney management also listened to a presentation about the business from Twitter executives, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions were private.

There were other reasons for Disney not to pursue Twitter. The social media pioneer, creator of the 140-character tweet, is losing money and yet sports a market value of almost $12 billion. That would a big deal even for Disney, which has a market value 12 times that. Some of Disney’s largest investors called the company over the past few weeks to express their displeasure with a Twitter purchase for those reasons, people close to the companies said.

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Everyone hates Twitter who isn’t Twitter.
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Samsung’s uneven handling of Galaxy Note 7 fires angers Chinese • The New York Times

Sui-Lee Wee:

»Zhang Sitong was saving a friend’s phone number on his Samsung Galaxy Note 7 smartphone when it started to vibrate and smoke. He threw it on the ground and told his friend to start filming.

Two employees from Samsung Electronics showed up at his house later that day, he said, offering a new Note 7 and about $900 in compensation on the condition that he keep the video private. Mr. Zhang angrily refused. Only weeks before, even as Samsung recalled more than two million Note 7s in the United States and elsewhere, the company had reassured him and other Chinese customers that the phone was safe.

“They said there was no problem with the phones in China. That’s why I bought a Samsung,” said Mr. Zhang, a 23-year-old former firefighter. “This is an issue of deception. They are cheating Chinese consumers.”…

…After he rejected the offer from Samsung, Mr. Zhang quit his job and hit the road. He joined up with Hui Renjie, another man who said his Note 7 had also blown up, to visit laboratories to figure out the problem with their phones. The trip and the testing were paid for by CCTV [China’s state broadcaster], which featured the two in Tuesday’s report.

In the report, CCTV said an independent lab could not determine the cause of the fire that consumed Mr. Zhang’s phone. It said an external heat source was not responsible for the fire that destroyed Mr. Hui’s phone.

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This might just be accident – some phones do combust – but chances are not. And it was already struggling for sales in China.
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Five reasons why Netflix just said no to China • Tech In Asia

Steven Millward:

»1. China’s streaming sites are really strong
China has nearly a dozen well-established and well-funded video sites run by some of its biggest tech giants – like Alibaba-owned Youku and Baidu spin-off Qiyi.

They started out as spaces for people to upload videos of their kid falling off a bike, but now they’re focusing a lot more on movies and TV series – ones they license from around the world, as well as some commissioned by the companies themselves.

All these Chinese streaming sites are largely free and ad-supported, even for big-name shows and films.

2. Prices are low
But… an increasing amount of content is being restricted to “VIP” users who pay a monthly or annual fee. Jack Ma’s ecommerce powerhouse Alibaba took that one step further just over a year ago with the launch of its subscription-only streaming service, TBO, which is available only to owners of its set-top box.

As Chinese consumers move slowly away from piracy and ad-supported streaming, companies are being careful to make the price tag as tiny as possible.

On both TBO and Youku, Alibaba charges just over five bucks per month or US$59 per year. Those are way below the US$10 monthly fee Netflix charges in the US – or even the more gentle US$8 in India.

3. Censorship and restrictions are crazy
This is actually the biggest barrier to Netflix – China’s media environment is not just “challenging,” the legislation is downright hostile to foreign companies.

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Three’s more than enough.
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Driverless cars will be like ‘Learners’, so we’ll bully them • The Memo

Oliver Smith:

»Surveying some 12,000 drivers, the London School of Economics and Goodyear found that many drivers expect these autonomous cars to be extra cautious and patient on the road, and that they plan to take ruthless advantage of this.

“The autonomous cars are going to stop. So you’re going to mug them right off,” said one participant. “They’re going to stop and you’re just going to nip round.”

The survey found that especially among more “competitive” drivers driverless cars are perceived as a potential nuisance, an opportunity to take advantage of, or “bully” on the roads.

Overall there was a feeling that autonomous vehicles would lack “common sense” on the roads.

So next time you see a car struggling to edge out on a roundabout, will you be the sympathetic one to let the driverless car out?

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These cars are going to get slaughtered in London traffic.
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We’re afraid of getting hacked, but we’re not doing much about it • Bloomberg

Max Chafkin:

»Since the group last polled the public in 2014, the percentage of people worried about threats like malware and identity theft either fell or held constant. This year’s poll found that a large majority of Americans, 69%, is concerned about email hacking—but that’s down from 71% in 2014.

That’s surprising, given that the 2014 poll was conducted before the Sony Pictures hack, widely considered a wakeup call that companies should be more careful with their data.

Most people don’t appear to have taken this message to heart, said Stefan Hankin, the Lincoln Park Strategies pollster. “People are saying, ‘I’m not the DNC, I’m not Hillary’s campaign,’” Hankin said. “People should be freaked out, but they’re not connecting the dots.”

Not yet, anyway. Hankin thinks that at some point consumers will begin to punish companies that don’t care for their data. “We’re one more hack away,” he said, from people beginning to take security and privacy more seriously.

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Poll paid for by Craig Newmark of Craigslist.
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The “social graph” is neither • Pinboard Blog

The peerless Maciej Ceglowski on Silicon Valley’s over-eagerness to create graphs out of “links” between people:

»But when you start talking about building a social graph that transcends any specific implementation, you quickly find yourself in the weeds. Is accepting someone’s invitation on LinkedIn the same kind of connection as mutually following them on Twitter? Can we define some generic connections like ‘fan of’ or ‘follower’ and re-use them for multiple sites? Does it matter that you can see who your followers are on site X but not on site Y?

One way to solve this comparison problem is with standards. Before pooling your data in the social graph, you first map it to a common vocabulary. Google, for example, uses XFN as part of their Social Graph API. This defines a set of about twenty allowed relationships. (Facebook has a much more austere set: close_friends, acquaintances, restricted, and the weaselly user_created).

But these common relationships turn out to be kind of slippery. To use XFN as my example, how do I decide if my cubicle mate is a friend, acquaintance or just a contact? And if I call him my friend, should I interpret that in the northern California sense, or in some kind of universal sense of friendship?

In the old country, for example, we have two kinds of ‘friendship’ (distinguished by whether you address one another with the informal pronoun) and going from one status to the other is a pretty big deal; you have to drink a toast with your arms all in a pretzel and it’s considered a huge faux pas to suggest it before both people feel ready. But at least it’s not ambiguous!

And of course sex complicates things even more. Will it get me in hot water to have a crush on someone but have a different person as my muse? Does spouse imply sweetheart, or do I have to explicilty declare that (perhaps on our 20th anniversary)? And should restrainingOrder be an edge or a node in this data model?

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It’s five years old, but still perfectly nails all the flawed attempts by sites to make us fit into their “graphs”.
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‘We’ve created a monster’: Publishers vent ad tech frustrations • Digiday

Jessica Davies:

»“What used to be small [exchange] partners have now totally disintermediated us from our customers, our control of pricing and distribution,” said a national newspaper programmatic director who preferred to stay anonymous. “We’ve created a monster which now has greater influence than we do.”

We spoke to a range of national newspaper and magazine publishers about their biggest concerns. All spoke under condition of anonymity. Here are the takeaways:

1) Eroding Trust
Publishers, both large and niche, are more suspicious of ad tech’s “agenda” than ever for a mix of reasons. Chief among them: the shift in power. “In the early days of programmatic, publishers gave ad tech a foothold, supporting vendors on the promise of partnership, empowerment and incremental business value,” said one programmatic chief at a national newspaper. That has certainly worked: Publishers have managed to squeeze much-needed additional revenue as a direct result of ad tech partners. The same exec likened this relationship to that of a “crocodile having its teeth cleaned by a plover bird,” to both parties’ mutual benefit and happy co-existence.

But somewhere along the way, an imbalance has taken root. “For publishers and tech, it’s developed into a perverse situation: akin to a leech growing bigger than the body from which it draws blood,” said the exec. “As a result, we’ve become hugely suspicious of ad tech’s agenda, which we’ve found to be driven by aggressive pursuit of short-term business value.”

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There are plenty more. Jared Diamond’s investigation into civilisations’ collapse suggests that overcomplexity strangles them. Ad tech and online news increasingly looks like an example of that, happening before our eyes. Eventually both collapse.
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Companies try out selfies as password alternatives • WSJ

Trisha Thadani:

»Selfies, long derided as a symbol of narcissism and oversharing, have found a more serious purpose.

Companies and government agencies—ranging from the ride-hailing service Uber Technologies Inc. and credit-card giant MasterCard Inc. to the Alabama Department of Revenue—are asking people to snap self-portraits on their smartphones as proof of identity.

As the quality of smartphone cameras improves and facial-recognition software becomes more affordable, the digital future might involve fewer convoluted passwords and more selfies. But there’s a downside: some cybercrime experts worry that people might be too quick to offer up their smiling faces, saying the technology is rife with privacy and security concerns.

“People see this technology and presume that it is automatically safe, but in the end, it all just comes down to math,” said Marc Goodman, a global security consultant. and author of the book “Future Crimes.”“There is nothing safer about [facial recognition], except that it rules out the challenges of password management.”

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At least you don’t have “face123”. But you are relying on the facial recognition system’s false positive/negative rate.
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LG V20 will cost $799 unlocked from Newegg and B&H, include free G Pad tablet • Android Police

Richard Gao:

»While customers who pre-ordered the V20 from select carriers will get the $150 B&O PLAY H3 in-ear headphones as a launch bonus, those of you who buy from B&H or Newegg will have a $150 LG G Pad 7.0″ tablet thrown in instead. Considering this G Pad’s 800p screen, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage, I think I’d rather have the headphones.

The G Pad’s specs may be weak, but the V20’s certainly aren’t. The phone sports a 5.7″ 1440p display, a Snapdragon 820, 4GB of RAM, 64GB of internal storage, 16MP and 8MP rear cameras, and a removable 3200mAh battery. It’s also got an excellent DAC, and it’s (technically) the first phone to ship with Android 7.0 Nougat.

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I don’t see that LG’s brand is strong enough, nor any of those specs exclusive in any way, to justify that price. Sure, iPhones are pricey – but Apple brings the iOS ecosystem exclusively to them, along with the stores and extras. LG brings exactly the same stuff that every other Android OEM in the US does, namely Google Play and other Google services.

The only thing that might swing it for a few people is the removable battery – but that’s beginning to look like a truly antiquated feature.
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The boy geniuses of Silicon Valley are totally deluded if they think they can fix online dating • Daily Telegraph

Zoe Strimpel is well qualified to talk on this, as she is completing a PhD in the history of dating:

»Is it better to date via niche sites like the pro-beard app Bristlr, huge sites like Plenty of Fish, expensive sites like eHarmony, or free ones like OkCupid? Should the “algorithm” control who you see, or should you? Are people even capable of engaging in proper conversations anymore? Impossible to say.

I would suggest that their problem is insurmountable. That is to say that a healthy haul of complete weirdos (and indeed pleasant but woefully incompatible try-hards) is inextricable from internet dating as an activity. Shorn of “co-presence” (sociological jargon for being in the same space at the same time as another person) there is no easy way to ensure compatibility. And without the robust quality control which comes with recommendations through friends and real-life social networks, it’s hard to be sure of what you’re getting. But that is the price we pay for the one thing, the only thing, that technology can do for dating: sheer numbers.

Online dating is about scale. It drastically decreases the cost, and thereby increases the frequency, of your contact with potential partners. They say there’s plenty more fish in the sea; why not be a trawler? Of course all these extra “contact hours” mean you are much more likely to encounter people you don’t want to; that’s the nature of the beast. No $7 fee, no option to “like” a photo, no being “dropped into a story”, will do the rest of the work. The bare truth is that if the people you meet are wrong, you’ll need to meet more. Denizens of the dating world don’t need new app features: they need patience.

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Why Jamaica knows about Apple’s new products before the rest of the world — Quartz

Joon Ian Wong and Christopher Groskopf:

»The tech giants are exploiting a US trademark-law provision that lets them effectively claim a trademark in secret. Under this provision, once a mark is lodged with an intellectual property office outside the US, the firm has six months to file it with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When the firm does file in the US, it can point to its original application made abroad to show that it has a priority claim on the mark.

In the meantime, though, the provision prevents competitors from guessing at a firm’s product plans from public filings. “Competitors could search, ‘What has Apple filed for? What are they thinking about?’” says Nehal Madhani of legal-software provider Alt Legal, who has researched the issue. Think of it as arbitraging global intellectual-property laws.

The filings made overseas aren’t, of course, actually secret—they’re just not easy to access if you can’t go in person. For instance, the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office allows visitors to search filings in person at its office in Kingston. People can also ask the office to search filings for them, but a Jamaican address is required to receive the results, and the process takes three weeks. A lawyer in Jamaica, however, can be appointed to perform the search, the office told Quartz. It said it has no current plans to put its filings database online. Alt Legal compiled a list of 65 other countries with offline trademark databases like Jamaica’s.

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This is a story about Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, among others. You’ll know Apple’s brand really has trouble when headlines on stories like this one mention Google rather than Apple. (Notice how Microsoft has faded from view in that sense.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified