Start up: IoT hack code in wild, can Twitter regenerate?, fewer flicks on Netflix, Meerkat’s dead, and more

A drug addict wonders where his next hit is coming from. Photo via jairoagua 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 them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Behavioral Debt • Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin:


Let’s use a tangible example in Facebook. Facebook would like to move into a more transactions-based model for the buying and selling of goods on their platform. Here we may likely see the messy reality of behavioral debt rear its ugly head. Consumers have built up years of behavioral debt doing a few main things on Facebook. Consumers are likely content in this reality and, when they want to buy something, they go to Amazon or some other established online merchant. Facebook wants to offer them the chance to do this on Facebook so they don’t have to leave and spend time and money somewhere else. But “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and I have a feeling convincing consumers to do anything more than they do today will prove quite tricky for Facebook due to the many hours/years spent building up behavioral debt in how they use Facebook.

Similarly, Intel, Microsoft, and the PC makers would all like to sell more of the 2-in-1 PC concepts. These devices are not the cheapest machines on the market but they offer better margins. The problem is, 2-in-1 PCs sell at a fraction of the volume of notebooks. What Intel and Microsoft have not yet learned is there is a massive amount of behavioral debt built up around the PC form factor. People understand it, they are comfortable with it, and they have established workflows on it. Many of you have heard me say those who grew up with a PC have a bias for it. This bias is explained by behavioral debt.


link to this extract

Hackers infect army of cameras, DVRs for massive internet attacks • WSJ

Drew Fitzgerald:


The proliferation of internet-connected devices from televisions to thermostats provide attackers a bigger arsenal of weapons to infiltrate. Many are intended to be plugged in and forgotten. These devices are “designed to be remote controlled over the internet,” said Andy Ellis, security chief at network operator Akamai Technologies Inc., some of whose clients were affected. “They’re also never going to be updated.”

Experts have long warned that machines without their own screens are less likely to receive fixes designed to protect them. Researchers have found flaws in gadgets ranging from “smart” lightbulbs to internet-connected cars. Wi-Fi routers are a growing source of concern as many manufacturers put the onus on consumers to do the updating.

Level 3 identified cameras and video recorders made by Chinese manufacturer Dahua Technology Co. as the sources of a large share of the recent attacks, but Level 3 said other devices are being roped into a new attack network currently being assembled. Hackers often hijack the machines through computers that are already infected or poorly protected Wi-Fi routers.


Question is, if you have a device like that, how do you protect it?
link to this extract

Regeneration ← Terence Eden’s Blog

The aforesaid Eden:


I’ve spent the last 15 years working in the mobile industry and, in truth, I think it is the industry that I’m leaving.

When I started out, I was the weirdo for having a touchscreen smartphone (Treo 180 represent!) – now everyone has them.

When I first began doing mobile websites, people thought it was a fad – I ended up running mobile websites with millions of users generating billions of euros.

They told me that no one wanted to wear Google Glass and… OK… I might have missed the ball on that one!

What I’m getting at is that mobile is saturated. I’m not naive enough to say Everything that can be Invented has been Invented – but we’re definitely in the “incremental improvement” stage of the industry. Short of a massive leap in power-delivery technology, the public acceptance of face-worn computers, or neural interfaces – I think the future might be *whispers* kinda dull.

Time to shake things up. Time to get out of a 15 year comfort zone. Time to change the world.


Looking forward to finding out what’s next, since we’ll probably all be heading there after him.
link to this extract

What the Twitter sale reveals about Twitter itself • Vanity Fair

Nick Bilton:


Companies aren’t just a mirror of their current leaders’ views. Companies are the result of everything that their leaders have done while they were in charge. And Twitter is the result of more than a decade of infighting at virtually every level of the institution. For a while, there was literally a new C.E.O. coming into power every couple of years. Each time a new chief took the helm, the ship was steered in a different direction. It should come as no surprise that, in addition to trolls, Twitter has become a home for ISIS and other anti-Western groups. How do you grow a start-up when some of your most powerful users quit the service on a regular basis? While Jack Dorsey might have finally returned to lead the social network that he helped create in 2006, he now finds himself running a feral product that isn’t really housebroken and is too old to be trained otherwise. Twitter, after all, was raised by dozens and dozens of former executives who were, seemingly as often as not, concerned with their own history as that of the company.

Someone very close to Twitter recently told me that if it wasn’t for all the rumors around an acquisition, the company’s stock would likely be in the low single digits.


link to this extract

The number of titles in the Netflix library is down 50% the past four years • Exstreamist

Tom Juel:


There’s no denying that the total number of titles available on Netflix is declining, but after some research, we were surprised by just how much it has decreased over the past few years.

We pulled September 2016 title counts from uNoGS in the US, showing that there are currently 5,302 titles available in the US Netflix library including movies and TV shows. What this means is that, over the past four years, the Netflix library has collapsed 50% in total title count since its peak four years ago.

While the exact number of titles available on Netflix in 2012 is unknown, sources who used to work for the streaming giant have told us it was close to 11,000 movies and TV shows. Over the years, this gradual decline has come from major content owners pulling the plug on giving Netflix distribution rights, as well as Netflix decreasing their total spend on third party content.

Instead of having to renegotiate streaming rights repeatedly for third party content, Netflix has opted to place a heavier focus on original movies and shows, a move that, while certainly appearing successful thus far, is still considered by many to be a massive gamble. Netflix has had tons of success with shows like ‘House of Cards,’ ‘Orange is the New Black,’ ‘Narcos’ and more, but the fact remains that creating original content is extremely expensive and doesn’t scale the same way content acquisition can.

Last year, we reported that Netflix originals were out-performing their television network counterparts when it came to producing quality shows, losing only to HBO. So perhaps this decline in third party content isn’t quite as bad as the numbers make it sound. There’s probably an argument that while quantity has gone down, the quality has remained strong or perhaps even gotten better.


link to this extract

#TrumpWon? trend vs. reality – i ❤ data • Medium

Gilad Lotan, chief data scientist at Betaworks, dug into the claims (untrue) that “#Trumpwon” began from Russian accounts, and finds a separate set of Twitter accounts which tweeted the photo:


What’s still unclear is who exactly photoshopped that image to make it seem like there was a Trump-Russia connection, and what else they have up their sleeves. What we’re seeing with this hashtag, is a highly organized group of interconnected accounts, dedicated to making their agenda as visible as possible.

Trending topics are helpful as they cut across information silos, gaining significant levels of attention from people who would otherwise never see your content.

The winner in this quest for attention and frame reaps huge rewards.

On the other hand, we’re seeing how false information can spread like wildfire, especially when there are enough people invested in making it true.

We have a few weeks to go, let’s see where this madness takes us!


link to this extract

iPhone 7 and augmented reality • Above Avalon

Neil Cybart:


The iPhone 7 Plus dual-system camera is able to extract more data than any other iPhone camera. When combined with software and other technologies, this data will become incredibly valuable for Apple’s augmented reality efforts. In an effort to obtain those specialized technologies, Apple has been on a buying spree for augmented reality startups including Metaio, Emotient, Polar Rose, Faceshift, PrimeSense, Flyby Media, and Perceptio. The dual-camera system found in the iPhone 7 Plus is the first step in Apple turning the iPhone into a key component of an augmented reality platform relying on much of the technology acquired these past two years. 

While the Phone will become a key part of Apple’s augmented reality platform, there will be a range of devices capable of enhancing reality through both visual and audible feedback. One reason why Apple has no other choice but to get into transportation is that automobiles will end up representing a superior use case for augmented reality.


link to this extract

High Hitler: how Nazi drug abuse steered the course of history • The Guardian

Rachel Cooke spoke to Norman Ohler, whose new book Blitzed explains the major – and previously overlooked – role of drugs in Germany’s second world war effort:


Pervitin, as it was known, quickly became a sensation, used as a confidence booster and performance enhancer by everyone from secretaries to actors to train drivers (initially, it could be bought without prescription). It even made its way into confectionery. “Hildebrand chocolates are always a delight,” went the slogan. Women were recommended to eat two or three, after which they would be able to get through their housework in no time at all – with the added bonus that they would also lose weight, given the deleterious effect Pervitin had on the appetite. Ohler describes it as National Socialism in pill form.

Naturally, it wasn’t long before soldiers were relying on it too. In Blitzed, Ohler reproduces a letter sent in 1939 by Heinrich Böll, the future Nobel laureate, from the frontline to his parents back at home, in which he begs them for Pervitin, the only way he knew to fight the great enemy – sleep. In Berlin, it was the job of Dr Otto Ranke, the director of the Institute for General and Defence Physiology, to protect the Wehrmacht’s “animated machines” – ie its soldiers – from wear, and after conducting some tests he concluded that Pervitin was indeed excellent medicine for exhausted soldiers. Not only did it make sleep unnecessary (Ranke, who would himself become addicted to the drug, observed that he could work for 50 hours on Pervitin without feeling fatigued), it also switched off inhibitions, making fighting easier, or at any rate less terrifying.

In 1940, as plans were made to invade France through the Ardennes mountains, a “stimulant decree” was sent out to army doctors, recommending that soldiers take one tablet per day, two at night in short sequence, and another one or two tablets after two or three hours if necessary. The Wehrmacht ordered 35m tablets for the army and Luftwaffe, and the Temmler factory increased production. The likes of Böll, it’s fair to say, wouldn’t need to ask their parents for Pervitin again.


And yes, Hitler wasn’t overlooked when it came to medication. The most stunning article you’ll read today (unless you’ve already read it).
link to this extract

Let us take a moment to mourn the BlackBerry •

Heather MacGregor is executive dean of Edinburgh Business School and the FT’s Mrs Moneypenny:


For my generation of working women, the BlackBerry handset, as a technological breakthrough, was every bit as liberating as the introduction of the contraceptive pill had been to a previous generation. As it could email from everywhere, you could be out of the office and still work perfectly well, allowing you to combine motherhood with a career in a way that had not been possible before. Indeed, a friend at a large US company found her BlackBerry meant that she could work part-time for 14 years — and very few people ever noticed. Suddenly flexibility was for everyone. The “always on” approach had arrived.

Others did not welcome the BlackBerry into their lives with such enthusiasm. Its highly addictive nature, which led to the “CrackBerry” nickname, meant that people rarely put the handset down when they came home in the evening. One (male) friend of mine had his BlackBerry addiction cited in his divorce as number three on his ex-wife’s list of his “unreasonable behaviour”.

In a world where digital detox retreats are the new indulgence for the well-heeled, it is hard to remember a time before we were “always on”. But let us not forget that the BlackBerry started all that.


link to this extract

‘Piece of crap’: Apple hit with proposed class action lawsuits over iPhone ‘touch disease’ • CBC News

Sophia Harris:


The suit alleges that that the underlying problem is the touchscreen controller chips in the phone’s motherboard, which are not properly secured and can malfunction with regular use.

[Lead plaintiff Rae] Wiegers says she contacted Apple numerous times about her defective phone and never got a satisfactory response.

She shared with CBC News a transcript of her online chat in August with senior adviser “Dave” from Apple Support.

In the transcript, Wiegers explained her problem, mentioned that she had read numerous similar complaints online, and even sent Dave a link to a recent blog from an online repair guide, iFixit. The blog labelled the problem “Touch Disease,” and claimed that iPhone repair shops in the U.S. were being inundated with customers looking for fixes for the defect.

Dave responded that he had no information that the problem was “known to be a manufacturing issue from Apple.”

He also reminded Wiegers that her warranty had expired and that she’d have to get the phone repaired. He recommended that she visit the Apple feedback site where she could “tell engineering to look into it.” He signed off with a 🙂 happy face.

“I just about felt like throwing my phone through the screen at him,” says Wiegers.


1) Not yet certified in court; this is a Canadian action. Await progress.
2) We’re in 2016 and a national publisher calls a blogpost “a recent blog”.
link to this extract

A shocking amount of e-waste recycling is a complete sham • Motherboard

Jason Koebler:


Until recently, I had never really thought about what happens to my old electronics. I took them to a community e-waste recycling drive, or dropped my old phone in a box somewhere, and I assumed my stuff was recycled.

An alarming portion of the time this is not actually the case, according to the results of a project that used GPS trackers to follow e-waste over the course of two years. Forty% of all US electronics recyclers testers included in the study proved to be complete shams, with our e-waste getting shipped wholesale to landfills in Hong Kong, China, and developing nations in Africa and Asia.

The most important thing to know about the e-waste recycling industry is that it is not free to recycle an old computer or an old CRT television. The value of the raw materials in the vast majority of old electronics is worth less than it costs to actually recycle them. While consumers rarely have to pay e-waste recycling companies to take their old electronics (costs are offset by local tax money or manufacturers fronting the bill as part of a legally mandated obligated recycling quota), companies, governments, and organizations do.

Or at least, in a rational market, your office would have to pay an e-waste recycler to take their old stuff. But an astounding amount of US electronics recyclers will take old machines at no cost or for pennies per pound, then sell them wholesale to scrapyards in developing nations that often employ low-salary laborers to dig out the several components that are worth anything.


link to this extract

Meerkat, star app of 2015, is officially dead • TechCrunch

Greg Kumparak:


Remember Meerkat? It came out of nowhere in early 2015 — a star of SXSW, in particular — and was on everyone’s tongue for weeks. Then came Periscope, a strikingly similar competitor built mostly in stealth mode, and word that Twitter had acquired it for nearly $100 million dollars before much of the world even knew it existed.

Suddenly, interest in Meerkat fizzled.

A year and a half later, Meerkat is dead, officially, as the company behind it shifts its efforts into a new project.

Ben Rubin, co-founder of Life On Air (the company behind Meerkat), announced this afternoon that Meerkat has been pulled from the App Store:

We just removed Meerkat from the AppStore 😔 bitter sweet moment seeing it go while celebrating @houseparty

The company itself, however, carries on: they’re now focusing on Houseparty, a group video chat application they’ve been building in secrecy for months. Houseparty lets you quickly jump into “parties” of up to 8 people simultaneously, creating drop-in-drop-out style video chats between any friends who are online at the same time. According to an article published this week by The Verge, Houseparty is already approaching its millionth user.


Rubin said that “broadcast wasn’t breaking as a daily habit”. Can see that it might never do, for the majority.
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.