Start up: Adobe’s voice faker, a later S8?, the war on reality, how Tesco Bank was hacked, and more


They’re breeding! Photo by rexhammock on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Don’t vote for them. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

After 20 minutes of listening, new Adobe tool can make you say anything • Motherboard

Matthew Gault:

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When Adobe released Photoshop in 1990, it dreamed of a world where movie studios and photo editors could do in minutes what once took hours. It never dreamed the world would take the digital editor and use it to put celebrity heads on porn star bodies, distort women’s bodies in magazine cover, and create vile memes.

Now, the same company that gave the world Photoshop wants to do for the human voice what it did for the human image—give people the tools to warp it in anyway they see fit. At the Adobe Max Creativity Conference, the company premiered VoCo: an audio editing suite that will allow users to make people say whatever they want just by typing.

According to Adobe, after about 20 minutes of listening to a voice, users can make the voice say whatever they want just by typing it out. Comedian and director Jordan Peele hosted the event and Adobe tech Zeyu Jin demoed the process by editing an interview with Peele’s comedic partner Keegan-Michael Key. Jin took existing audio of Key, then used the software to make him talk about making out with Peele instead of his wife.

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Concerning, surely. Who’s going to believe a Trump soundtrack now?
link to this extract


Samsung tests button for improved AI feature on Galaxy S8 phone – WSJ

Eun-Young Jeong and Jonathan Cheng:

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[Samsung] Executives are now looking to delay the announcement of the Galaxy S8 until after the Mobile World Congress trade show in late February next year, the people said. One of these people said the unveiling could come as late as April. That would mark a break from the past three years, when Samsung used the tech showcase in Barcelona to unveil its newest top-of-the-line Galaxy S smartphones.

A spokesman for Samsung declined to comment.

The delayed launch highlights Samsung’s efforts to ensure that its next product is a hit with consumers. The world’s largest smartphone maker by sales is in dire need of a rebound, as the Galaxy Note 7 debacle has already cost the company more than $5 billion.

Tweaking the design of its most important product line to highlight one feature would underscore Samsung’s ambitions in the growing market for digital assistants.

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“Samsung tests button” may be my new favourite headline fragment. That delay, though, will hit Q1 sales.
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New Apple MacBooks: are you not entertained? • Forbes

Patrick Moorhead makes a good point: why isn’t there LTE support on the new laptops?

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The new MacBooks are very thin, powerful and mobile. The exception to this mobility is that they don’t support integrated LTE. This has always been a head-scratcher for me when you consider Apple’s iPads do. The new MacBooks are the most expensive notebooks on the market and therefore cater to a premium audience who want it all. 1Gbps LTE could literally give wireline-speed to users. Qualcomm has been shipping X15 chips for a while now, OEMs are integrating them and services are starting to spring up, too. I wrote that about here.

I don’t buy the argument that users can just use their smartphone if they want. Otherwise, why would iPads have LTE options? Adding LTE does add some extra time for homologation, but not more than it does on an iPad. LTE does add antenna complexity, but certainly no more than an iPhone or iPad which has much less antenna routing real estate. Additionally, having integrated LTE would also be more secure than using public Wi-Fi or a Wi-Fi hotspot.

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link to this extract


The Trump campaign’s war on reality made me question what I saw • Washington Post

Ben Terris:

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“I just want to make sure,” my editor asked me as he closed the door to his office. “He definitely grabbed her?”

It had to be the 50th time I’d heard this question, and each time it filled me with unspeakable anxiety.

Yes, he grabbed her. It happened three days earlier, in the chandelier-lit ballroom of Donald Trump’s golf club in Jupiter, Fla. Trump had just won the state’s primary, and he was celebrating in a ballroom full of Trump-branded products: steaks, water, even a magazine.

After the speech, Michelle Fields, a reporter for Breitbart, approached Trump with a question about affirmative action, when Corey Lewandowski, then Trump’s campaign manager, took her by the arm and yanked her from the candidate.

It happened right in front of me.

And yet, even though I saw it, the Trump team’s response — to claim it never happened at all — would become a small preview of a strategy the campaign would return to again and again on a much larger scale this year: Bully, don’t back down, do whatever you can to muddy up the facts. It was a type of lie that has lived at the center of the Trump campaign. This was not simply a misreading of history, an embellishment of biography, or a dishonest interpretation of a piece of legislation. It was a flat-out denial of something that undeniably happened.

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link to this extract


Here’s how the Tescobank hack went down • L33t Mark

“An infosec guy” on how 20,000 Tesco bank accounts had money stolen from them over the weekend:

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It seems highly likely bordering on certain that the source of the suspicious transactions was the TescoBank online bank portal. The internet banking portal has been taken down. I think it’s almost certain that the criminals behind this gained non-administrative access to user accounts through vulnerabilities in the online bank website. Why?

Let’s assume a financial motive is behind this attack and that whoever did it did not just shuffle money around on accounts. The fact that some accounts experienced transfers of money but no losses indicate funnelling. For online banking, it is normal to have to request the right to move money to foreign countries. Sometimes you can change this setting yourself online (possibly validating using 2FA), sometimes you have to submit a request have it changed.

In today’s Tescobank case it seems that the criminals were identifying accounts that had the correct rights to move money to accounts in countries/banks of their choice and control (via money mules maybe). So the criminals got access to funnel transfers to accounts that could then probably move amounts overseas, where I supposed money mules retrieved as much of this as possible before it was locked down by TescoBank. This means that money from my account went to -> Small Corp X that often transfers to Russia -> To an account in for example a Russian bank.

It also seems that the criminals executed a large amount of non-random transfers over a period of hours, transfers that could probably, given their level of access, have been largely automated. It seems they may have done extensive research, set up scripts to calculate or read amounts on accounts and then set up transfers to move the money from source accounts to funnel accounts to destination accounts over a period of hours. Maybe a too rapid move would be caught too quickly and remove their ability to profit from this.

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20,000 accounts of 40,000 that were accessed had money taken; out of about 136,000 accounts. If this was the website, then Tesco has no business keeping its online bank open, and I’d encourage anyone to remove their money. (I’d suggest that anyway, to be honest.) I also understand, from an Overspill reader, that Tesco didn’t require two-factor authentication to set up a new direct payment from your account. This is such elementary security that it should be a legal requirement.
link to this extract


Media’s next challenge: overcoming the threat of fake news • New York Times

Jim Rutenberg:

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That contraction in the reporting corps, combined with the success of disinformation this year, is making for some sleepless nights for those in Washington who will have to govern in this bifurcated, real-news-fake-news environment.

“It’s the biggest crisis facing our democracy, the failing business model of real journalism,” Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri and a longtime critic of fake news, told me on Saturday.

Ms. McCaskill said that “journalism is partly to blame” for being slow to adjust as the internet turned its business model upside down and social media opened the competitive floodgates. “Fake news got way out ahead of them,” she said.

It does not augur well for the future. Martin Baron, the Washington Post executive editor, said when we spoke last week, “If you have a society where people can’t agree on basic facts, how do you have a functioning democracy?”

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There’s going to be a huge hangover after the fizz of the advertising around the US election.
link to this extract


Yes, Donald Trump, the FBI can vet 650,000 emails in eight days • Wired

Andy Greenberg:

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“You can’t review 650,000 emails in eight days,” Trump said Sunday in a campaign speech in Michigan hours after Comey’s latest update to Congress came out. “You can’t do it, folks. Hillary Clinton is guilty.” Trump supporter General Michael Flynn did the math on Twitter, [suggesting it was impossible].

But fortunately for Comey’s eyesight—and for Clinton’s presidential campaign—Trump is wrong: the FBI can review hundreds of thousands of emails in a week, using automated search and filtering tools rather than Flynn’s absurd notion of Comey reading the documents manually. “This is not rocket science,” says Jonathan Zdziarski, a forensics expert who’s consulted for law enforcement and worked as a systems administrator. “Eight days is more than enough time to pull this off in a responsible way.”

One former FBI forensics expert even tells WIRED he’s personally assessed far larger collections of data, far faster. “You can triage a dataset like this in a much shorter amount of time,” says the former agent, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid any political backlash. “We’d routinely collect terabytes of data in a search. I’d know what was important before I left the guy’s house.”

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Might be a vain hope to think this is the last we’re ever going to hear of this. But let’s close our eyes and try.
link to this extract


The US and fiscal indulgences • The Economist

From 2011, by “W.W.” (Economist writers are always anonymous):

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Mr [Michael] Munger [professor of political science at Duke University, who says that the US dispenses tax breaks like the Catholic church used to dispense “indulgences” for money] observes that America’s blockheaded debt-ceiling debate flows in part from a bipartisan commitment to the medieval theology of our tax code:

»The Republicans in Congress are prepared to sacrifice our immortal debt rating to the proposition that not one penny increase is possible, even though almost no one actually pays those rates. The Democrats in Congress like high rates, so that they can sell indulgences.«

Republicans depend on selling indulgences, too, Mr Munger is keen to stress. Bowles-Simpson recommended closing some of the tax code’s most egregious loopholes. But the political incentives led President Obama to refuse the chance to go after tax expenditures; he has mostly pushed for higher rates. This is all incredibly depressing. You know we’re in trouble when Mr Munger, one of our sharpest scholars of political economy, is unable to offer useful advice beyond calling for a reformation, “a Martin Luther to speak out and tell the truth”.

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Thanks to Overspill reader JZ for this – though I think it misses the teleological element: Americans hate the idea of their money being spent to help other people, even their countrymen (and women).
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I have lived the USB-C #donglelife. Here’s what you’re in for • The Verge

Dieter Bohn:

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I have been using USB-C for a year now, on the non-Pro MacBook, so I thought I should share some of my experiences. And I want to tell you that the #donglelife (yes, it’s a hashtag) is not all that horrible for me, day-to-day. That’s in large part because I am smack in the center of Apple’s target market: I don’t need to plug stuff beyond power into my computer all that often, so when I do it’s not too big a hassle to use a dongle. And much to my surprise, I don’t miss MagSafe as much as I expected to. If I were a photographer or video director who needs to use SD cards constantly and who already has a cache of hard drives that require different ports, it might be a different story.

I feel strange defending dongles, because you can and should count me among the people who think that removing the headphone port from the iPhone 7 was a user hostile mistake. But for me, the big difference between needing dongles for your laptop and needing dongles for your phone is that you usually carry your laptop around in a bag, which has pockets that can carry dongles.

I should also point out that I am a USB-C partisan. The dream of this single port was and always has been that you will be able to stop carrying around a different cable for every. damn. gadget. you. own. We do not live in that world yet, but I’ve experienced bits and pieces of it and I genuinely think a little pain now is worth it for that better future.

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BURN THE HERETIC!
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WikiLeaks isn’t whistleblowing • The New York Times

Zeynep Tufekci:

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Wanton destruction of the personal privacy of any person who has ever come near a political organization is a vicious but effective means to smother dissent. This method is so common in Russia and the former Soviet states that it has a name: “kompromat,” releasing compromising material against political opponents. Emails of dissidents are hacked, their houses bugged, the activities in their bedrooms videotaped, and the material made public to embarrass and intimidate people whose politics displeases the powerful. Kompromat does not have to go after every single dissident to work: If you know that getting near politics means that your personal privacy may be destroyed, you will understandably stay away.

Data dumps by WikiLeaks have outed rape victims and gay people in Saudi Arabia, private citizens’ emails and personal information in Turkey, and the voice mail messages of Democratic National Committee staff members. Dissent requires the right to privacy: to be let alone in our vulnerabilities and the ability to form our thoughts and share them when we choose. These hacks undermine that crucial right.

Mass data releases, like the Podesta emails, conflate things that the public has a right to know with things we have no business knowing, with a lot of material in the middle about things we may be curious about and may be of some historical interest, but should not be released in this manner.

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link to this extract


The Mainstreaming of the Mac • Tech.pinions

Jan Dawson pulls together some numbers from Adobe and Apple, to contrast with an estimated installed base for Apple of 90 million Macs:

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If we put these numbers together, we get a picture of 8-13 million users of Adobe’s creative products and another 13 million or so Apple developers. Of course, of those Adobe users, a good chunk will be using Windows versions rather than Mac versions. At the absolute outside, though, it gives, at most, around 25 million total users in the two buckets that have been most vocal about the MacBook Pro changes, out of a total base of around 90 million, or around 28%. Realistically, that number is probably quite a bit smaller, perhaps around 15-20% of the total. Of these, not all will share the concerns of those who have been so outspoken in the past week. To look at it another way, Apple sold 18.5 million Macs in the past year, which might end up being roughly the same as the combined number of creative professionals and developers in the base.

In the end, the picture that emerges is of a base of Macs with the kinds of users that have been expressing concerns or frustration with the changes in the minority. The vast majority of the user base is in other categories, principally general purpose consumer and business users. How does the rest of the base feel about the new MacBooks? Well, of course, that base is much less vocal and less visible – the general purpose Mac user tends not to blog or host podcasts about Apple.

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But, he also points out, it needs to update the Mac Pro urgently.
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Scriptarian – Scripting Studio for macOS

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Scriptarian allows you to easily automate macOS using the Swift programming language, providing a modern alternative to AppleScript.

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I think it’s not so much a “modern alternative” as an alternative; but perhaps a good way to learn Swift.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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