Start up: no ceramic iPhone, trading nonexistent bitcoin, the drone arms race, 40 years of Pigs, and more


It’s time to understand why people will do this, because they’re not “idiots” – they’re rational. Photo by Tony Webster on Flickr.


Why not come to London on October 18th? I’ll be giving a talk: “Social Networks and the Truth“:

How many people do you follow on Facebook or Twitter whose political views you fundamentally disagree with?

It’s probably in the single digits. Yet there are millions of them out there. So why aren’t you following them? And if you aren’t, does that make their views wrong – or yours?

What happens when an election cycle or a referendum runs around opposing camps of social media opinions? How important are news media in such a situation? And would you believe that being online is polarising us, rather than making us more willing to listen to other viewpoints?

This talk will explore that – and its consequences.

A few tickets left; £10 secures your place.


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.

Facebook has repeatedly trended fake news since firing its human editors • The Washington Post

Caitlin Dewey:

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in the six weeks since Facebook revamped its Trending system — and a hoax about the Fox News Channel star subsequently trended — the site has repeatedly promoted “news” stories that are actually works of fiction.

As part of a larger audit of Facebook’s Trending topics, the Intersect logged every news story that trended across four accounts during the workdays from Aug. 31 to Sept. 22. During that time, we uncovered five trending stories that were indisputably fake and three that were profoundly inaccurate. On top of that, we found that news releases, blog posts from sites such as Medium and links to online stores such as iTunes regularly trended. Facebook declined to comment about Trending on the record.

“I’m not at all surprised how many fake stories have trended,” one former member of the team that used to oversee Trending told the Post. “It was beyond predictable by anyone who spent time with the actual functionality of the product, not just the code.”

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link to this extract


Why your next iPhone won’t be ceramic • Atomic Delights

Greg Koenig:

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Your typical phone has a stamped metal frame that gets placed into a mold to have the plastic outside shell injected around it. Total cycle time per phone of perhaps 20 seconds, and it isn’t like this makes a chintzy part – the same process is used to make the frame of a Glock. To build a million phone enclosures a day [as Apple does for the iPhone], you would need a few hundred machines and could fit the entire operation into a healthy sized Shenzhen industrial building. You can, of course, add some glitz and finishing processes to gussie up your plastic phone a bit, but those additions don’t add very much time.

An iPhone however, starts as a block of aluminum and is faced, milled, drilled, tapped, and de-burred in a bevy of machining operations, getting passed (mostly by hand, but increasingly by robot arm) through a series of mills, each set-up with precision fixtures that hold one side of the phone to face the spindle. Just the interior cavity of an iPhone requires 3-4 minutes of takt time while micro end mills carve out the tiny details and features that the interior components will locate against and fasten to. Just that one operation requires 3000 CNC mills to meet the 1 million per day demand. Add more machines to do the other sides of the phone, plus the crazy high-tech multi-axis lathes that make the buttons, plus production for iPads,and iMacs, and MacBooks, and Watches, and many of the accessories.


A murder of Fanuc Robodrills

This high cycle time is why Apple is the world’s largest owner of CNC milling machines and swiss style lathes. Rumors are that the number is around 40,000 with about half dedicated to iPhone production. I’ve seen pictures of one shop with acres of Fanuc Robodrills making iPhones, and that was only one of about a dozen such facilities. Apple is such a huge buyer of a particular kind of mill (BT30 spindle drill-tap centers) that Fanuc, Brother and DMG Mori each have factories dedicated to building machines exclusively for Apple.

This is not a position that happened overnight; it is a capability and scale that could only come about through iterative, strategic, long-term evolution. This started well over a decade ago with the MacBook Air’s unibody and has been relentlessly improved, deep partnerships cultivated, and new CNC machining techniques created to achieve the position Apple is in today. In many ways, Apple is far more dedicated to aluminum machining than the company ever was to the PowerPC and switching away will be far more tricky.

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Mindblowing.
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Why Trump voters are not “complete idiots” • Medium

Chris Arnade is a photographer and writer; he wrote this on May 30, but its message is more important to understand than ever – and it applies too over “Brexit”:

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When the Democrats under Clinton in the early ‘90s shifted towards a pro market agenda, they made a dramatic shift towards accepting the Republicans definition of value as being about the economic.

Now elites in both major parties see their broad political goal as increasing the GDP, regardless of how it is done.

This has failed most Americans, other than the elite, in two ways. It has failed to provide an economic boost (incomes are broadly flat), and it has forgotten that many people see value as being not just economic, but social. It has been a one-two punch that has completely left behind many people.
For many people value is about having meaning beyond money. It is about having institutions that work for you. Like Church. Family. Sports Leagues.

In addition, the social nature of jobs has been destroyed. Unions provided more than just economic power, they also provided social inclusion.

You can scrap this entire analysis as silly if you want, but please try and understand the core point missing from much of the current dialogue — large parts of the US have become completely isolated, socially and economically.

Kids are growing up in towns where by six, or seven, or eleven, they are doomed to be viewed as second class. They feel unvalued. They feel stuck. They are mocked. And there is nothing they feel they can do about it.

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His explanation of the step change between the two levels, and why those on the lower level would welcome disruptive change, is salutary.
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Bitfinex recovery right tokens • Bitfinex blog

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It is possible that some or all of the bitcoins stolen from Bitfinex will be recovered, perhaps through the efforts of law enforcement or through our own outreach to the hackers. .

To further reward BFX token holders converting to equity, we have created a new token, the Recovery Right Token (the RRT) to compensate victims of the security breach and, thereafter, to offer a priority to early BFX token conversions.

If there is any recovery of the property stolen from Bitfinex on August 2nd, the first priority will be to use any recovery amounts to repay the then-outstanding (unconverted) BFX tokens.

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This sounds like the sort of thing you could trade.. so there’s a market in missing, and possibly never-recoverable, bitcoins? This is meta.
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English man spends 11 hours trying to make cup of tea with Wi-Fi kettle • The Guardian

Bonnie Malkin:

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All Mark Rittman wanted was a cup of tea. Little did he know he would have to spend 11 hours waiting for his new hi-tech kettle to boil the water.

Rittman, a data specialist who lives in Hove, England, set about trying to make a cup of tea around 9am. But thanks to his Wi-Fi enabled kettle it wasn’t long before he ran into trouble, tweeting: “Still haven’t had a first cup of tea this morning, debugging the kettle and now iWifi base-station has reset. Boiling water in saucepan now.”

Three hours later the kettle was still having problems. The main issue seemed to be that the base station was not able to communicate with the kettle itself.

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link to this extract


Pentagon confronts a new threat from ISIS: exploding drones • The New York Times

Michael S. Schmidt and Eric Schmitt:

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Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State in northern Iraq last week shot down a small drone the size of a model airplane. They believed it was like the dozens of drones the terrorist organization had been flying for reconnaissance in the area, and they transported it back to their outpost to examine it.

But as they were taking it apart, it blew up, killing two Kurdish fighters in what is believed to be one of the first times the Islamic State has successfully used a drone with explosives to kill troops on the battlefield.

In the last month, the Islamic State has tried to use small drones to launch attacks at least two other times, prompting American commanders in Iraq to issue a warning to forces fighting the group to treat any type of small flying aircraft as a potential explosive device.

The Islamic State has used surveillance drones on the battlefield for some time, but the attacks — all targeting Iraqi troops — have highlighted its success in adapting readily accessible technology into a potentially effective new weapon. American advisers say drones could be deployed against coalition forces by the terrorist group in the battle in Mosul.

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Flying IEDs. Technology is neither good nor bad, but neither is it neutral.
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Worldwide PC shipments declined 5.7% in third quarter of 2016 • Gartner

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“There are two fundamental issues that have impacted PC market results: the extension of the lifetime of the PC caused by the excess of consumer devices, and weak PC consumer demand in emerging markets,” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. “According to our 2016 personal technology survey, the majority of consumers own, and use, at least three different types of devices in mature markets. Among these devices, the PC is not a high priority device for the majority of consumers, so they do not feel the need to upgrade their PCs as often as they used to. Some may never decide to upgrade to a PC again.

“In emerging markets, PC penetration is low, but consumers are not keen to own PCs. Consumers in emerging markets primarily use smartphones or phablets for their computing needs, and they don’t find the need to use a PC as much as consumers in mature markets.”

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IDC’s results say much the same (with not quite such a big decline). That point about “consumers not being keen to own PCs” is pretty telling. PC sales for the third quarter were the lowest they’ve been since 2006; concentration of production (80% by the top six) was at its greatest ever, and is going to increase once Lenovo takes over Fujitsu. I do wonder how long Samsung will persist.

Neither set of numbers, however, includes Chromebooks or 2-in-1s. Chromebooks in particular are zooming ahead. It’s about time that one of these groups included them: they’re becoming important in education, from where they could break out. They’re a slow low-end disruption playing out over a decade, as children graduate from school.
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Apples and oranges: Why a TV viewer does not equal an online video view • Digiday

Sahil Patel:

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A year ago, Yahoo became the first company to live stream a regular-season NFL game all around the world. The broadcast netted 15.2m unique viewers worldwide. With most Sunday NFL games in the U.S. averaging 10m to 20m viewers, Yahoo seemed to have hit a TV-sized NFL audience.

Except it didn’t. If you were to measure Yahoo’s live stream the same way TV is measured, the viewership was far smaller: an average of nearly 2.4m viewers across the 195-minute live stream.

This, in a nutshell, is the biggest difference between how viewership is defined on TV versus the web: Whereas TV looks for the average number of viewers across the entire program, the web prioritizes the cumulative number of people who have watched a video.

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There is a problem with journalists who don’t know how TV measures numbers and think that “views” equates to “viewers”, and so lap up numbers provided (without that important context) by Facebook or Google. It’s worth looking at how those are measured officially, so that you can understand future claims that “the Presidential debates were watched by far more people online!” TV remains an incredibly powerful medium for the broader population.
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It’s time for science to abandon the term ‘statistically significant’ • Aeon Essays

David Colquhoun:

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it’s high time that we abandoned the well-worn term ‘statistically significant’. The cut-off of P < 0.05 that’s almost universal in biomedical sciences is entirely arbitrary – and, as we’ve seen, it’s quite inadequate as evidence for a real effect. Although it’s common to blame Fisher for the magic value of 0.05, in fact Fisher said, in 1926, that P = 0.05 was a ‘low standard of significance’ and that a scientific fact should be regarded as experimentally established only if repeating the experiment ‘rarely fails to give this level of significance’.

The ‘rarely fails’ bit, emphasised by Fisher 90 years ago, has been forgotten. A single experiment that gives P = 0.045 will get a ‘discovery’ published in the most glamorous journals. So it’s not fair to blame Fisher, but nonetheless there’s an uncomfortable amount of truth in what the physicist Robert Matthews at Aston University in Birmingham had to say in 1998: ‘The plain fact is that 70 years ago Ronald Fisher gave scientists a mathematical machine for turning baloney into breakthroughs, and flukes into funding. It is time to pull the plug.’

The underlying problem is that universities around the world press their staff to write whether or not they have anything to say. This amounts to pressure to cut corners, to value quantity rather than quality, to exaggerate the consequences of their work and, occasionally, to cheat.

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Colquhoun is a professor of pharmacology at University College London and a Fellow of the Royal Society, so this isn’t some bit of randomness. I read this with growing amazement, but it makes sense. 5% has always been arbitrary; the incentives to push things over that “significance” line, and the logical flaws inherent in using it, which Colquhoun points out, are now a problem.
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Pigs (Three Different Ones) – Live – Desert Trip – Indio Ca – October 9, 2016 • YouTube

Roger Waters performing one of the songs from Pink Floyd’s 1977 album “Animals”. Watch the graphics, all the way through. The lyrics, it turns out, are still relevant.

(Also have to love how even during the guitar solo, the spotlight isn’t allowed to come off Waters.)
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Samsung slashes profit forecast due to Galaxy Note 7 recall • WSJ

Jonathan Cheng and Eun-young Jeong:

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In a reflection of the widening financial impact of its product safety crisis, the South Korean technology giant lowered its operating profit estimate for the three months ended Sept. 30 to 5.2trn Korean won ($4.6bn) from an original estimate of 7.8trn ($6.99bn) won.

It also lowered its expected revenue for the quarter to 47trn won ($4.21bn) from an original estimate of 49trn won ($4.39bn).

Samsung said last week that its preliminary third-quarter earnings guidance figures took into account the Galaxy Note 7 recall. But the new numbers now factor in the increased likelihood that customers will seek a refund for their Galaxy Note 7 rather than an exchange for a Samsung phone, leading to lower expected earnings for the quarter.

“The expected direct cost of the discontinuation of the Galaxy Note 7 has been reflected,” a company spokeswoman said.

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The mobile division may make an operating loss. My records for Samsung only go back to 2009, and that’s never happened in that period. What’s shifted is that “refund rather than replacement” – an acknowledgement of the cost of the brand damage.
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Samsung breached limits in its bid to trump Apple • Financial Times

Song Jung-a in Seoul and Louise Lucas in Hong Kong:

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A similar bid to leap ahead saw Samsung adopt ultra-thin separators to keep anode and cathode elements apart in the battery cells and thus prevent short-circuiting. By making the separators thinner, the batteries are lighter, leaving more space to pack density into the positively and negatively charged parts of the cell. 

“Samsung was bold in adopting the very thin separators. And they may have stretched themselves in taking on this challenge in a short space of time before the iPhone 7 came out,” said Noboru Sato, a visiting professor at Nagoya University and a former executive of battery supplier Samsung SDI.

Super-thin separators are mostly supplied by Japanese companies, including Toray, Teijin and Asahi Kasei. Mr Sato said the separators are unlikely to be at fault. Instead, he questioned whether Samsung had the surrounding technologies to manage these latest-generation separators.

“You have to be extremely precise in handling these new separators, but it’s plausible the trouble occurred because testing was insufficient,” he said. 

Teijin said its separator was not used in the Galaxy Note 7, while Toray and Asahi Kasei did not comment.

An industry player in Europe suggested processor overloading could be the problem, saying rapidly changing consumer demands meant algorithms built into the processor to “shove more energy” into devices can easily overload the battery, triggering overheating. 

For Kim Young-woo, an analyst at SK Securities, Samsung’s obsession with waterproofing was to the detriment of heat control technology, which had not been a problem in the past. 

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link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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