Start up: the fake news uprising at Facebook, tales from the Trumpites, India’s imbalance, and more


Shazam: always listening on your Mac. Always. Photo by tualamac 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.

Facebook and Google move to kick fake news sites off their ad networks • The Guardian

Alex Hern:

»

Both Google and Facebook have announced plans to go after the revenue of fake news sites, kicking the hoaxers off their ad networks in an attempt to prevent misleading the public from being profitable.

Google moved first, announcing on Monday a policy update which restricts its adverts from being placed on fake news sites. “We will restrict ad serving on pages that misrepresent, mis-state, or conceal information about the publisher, the publisher’s content, or the primary purpose of the web property,” a spokeswoman told Reuters.

It remains unclear whether Google has the ability to correctly identify such sites, though. For hours on Monday, the search engine’s top news link for “final election results” led to a fabricated story on “70 News” which claimed that Donald Trump had won the popular vote by 700,000 votes. In fact, Clinton is currently in the lead by the same margin, according to the AP.

Later that day, Facebook updated the language in the policies for the Audience Network, its own advertising platform. The platform already bans ads in sites that show “misleading or illegal” content, and the update makes clear that those terms apply to fake news sites as well.

«

link to this extract
And also: Renegade Facebook employees form task force to battle fake news:

Facebook employees have formed an unofficial task force to question the role their company played in promoting fake news in the lead-up to Donald Trump’s victory in the US election last week, amid a larger, national debate over the rise of fake and misleading news articles in a platform used by more than 150 million Americans.

It’s like an uprising.


Students solve Facebook’s fake-news problem in 36 hours • Business Insider

Julie Bort:

»

Just how hard of a problem is it for an algorithm to determine real news from lies?

Not that hard.

During a hackathon at Princeton University, four college students created one in the form of a Chrome browser extension in just 36 hours. They named their project “FiB: Stop living a lie.”

The students are Nabanita De, a second-year master’s student in computer science student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Anant Goel, a freshman at Purdue University; Mark Craft, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Qinglin Chen, a sophomore also at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Their News Feed authenticity checker works like this, De tells us:

“It classifies every post, be it pictures (Twitter snapshots), adult content pictures, fake links, malware links, fake news links as verified or non-verified using artificial intelligence.

“For links, we take into account the website’s reputation, also query it against malware and phishing websites database and also take the content, search it on Google/Bing, retrieve searches with high confidence and summarize that link and show to the user. For pictures like Twitter snapshots, we convert the image to text, use the usernames mentioned in the tweet, to get all tweets of the user and check if current tweet was ever posted by the user.”

The browser plug-in then adds a little tag in the corner that says whether the story is verified.

«

link to this extract


Sunset over America: it’s time for the next superpower • Medium

I wrote something:

»

The US used to be the envy of the world for its technology; who else could land people and a rover on the moon and bring them back safely? The 1960s were good, weren’t they? All that New Frontier stuff from Kennedy. Whoop!

But now the US is literally crumbling. An infrastructure renewal plan passed by Congress in December 2015, a five-year $305bn package, is only a drop in the bucket:

According to the 2013 report card by the American Society of Civil Engineers, the U.S. has serious infrastructure needs of more than $3.4trn through 2020, including $1.7trn for roads, bridges and transit; $736bn for electricity and power grids; $391bn for schools; $134bn for airports; and $131bn for waterways and related projects.

US infrastructure spending has (as the article points out) hit a 30-year-low. Simply: the US has ignored its public costs for years. More generally, the US is showing the limits of Ayn Rand-style devil-take-the-hindmost capitalism. Pensions are outsourced (as a relative pointed out) to the stock market, which is risky. Health care (as noted above) is relegated to a situation where you can only be as ill as you can afford; otherwise you’re bankrupt or more ill. (I wonder: do people who are against universal healthcare refuse to provide financial help to ill friends? If they do, isn’t that hypocritical?) Government spending on everything socially useful is chipped away in favour of tax cuts, because people know best what to do with their money — don’t they? They’ll definitely ration it out on buying a pension and health insurance rather than beer, won’t they?

«

link to this extract


Google’s response to the European Commission’s antitrust allegations leaves a lot to be desired • Android Police

Michael Crider:

»

the EC has a history of apparently targeting successful American tech firms ostensibly to open up space for European competitors. But Google’s refutation of the initial statement [from the EC accusing Google of antitrust in its control of Android] rings hollow in a lot of ways. Just off the top of my head, and corresponding to the points above:

• With nearly 90% of the smartphone market, Google can’t really claim that it’s not attempting a monopoly, or that its OS (if not its policies) aren’t slowly approaching near-total dominance.

• Android is open source, and any attempt by Google to retain control of it on a developer or user level is against the spirit of its foundation. Google might be the creator of Android, but that doesn’t necessarily make the company its guardian.

• Having Google’s Play Store pre-installed on more or less every Android phone and tablet is a clear market advantage. To make the discussion about individual apps is a dodge.

• The idea that the revenue gained from pre-installing Google Search helps keep Android and the Play Store free is only further evidence of Google’s vested interest in driving away competition for both search and mobile.

«

Android news site says Google’s defence of Android accusations is trivial to counter. Perhaps not what one expects to hear.
link to this extract


Why the vast majority of women in India will never own a smartphone • WSJ

Eric Bellman and Aditi Malhotra:

»

In India, 114 million more men than women have cellphones. That represents more than half the total worldwide gap of around 200 million between men and women who possess phones, according to GSMA, an international cellphone-industry group.

Tech evangelists often tout cellular phones and internet access as great levelers—tools that promote equality and ease social disparities.

But in countries such as India, the new technology is exacerbating an already deep gender gap. The gulf is blocking women from increasingly crucial ways of communicating and learning, and making it harder for them to find work, upgrade their skills and assert political rights.

In India, millions use smartphones to find jobs, bank, study, order train tickets, interact with the government and more. Offline options require freedom of movement not available for many women, and extra time and cost in traveling, standing in lines and filling out forms.

“Mobile phones, especially smartphones, are going to be the biggest challenge to achieving gender equity,” said Osama Manzar, founder of the nonprofit Digital Empowerment Foundation, which helps marginalized groups get access to technology. “Denying them to women means lost opportunity for women and the economy.”

«

It’s not just about affordability.
link to this extract


Can we put the 16GB “Pro” myth to rest? • Zdziarski’s Blog of Things

Jonathan Zdziarski deals with the complaints that the new MacBook Pros “only” have up to 16GB of RAM by pointing out how many apps you have to open even to touch the sides:

»

The manuscripts for all of my books put together are only maybe 20 MB in size. More PowerPoint slide decks only consume a few MB a piece. I’d be hard pressed to burn another gig and a half unless I opened up every last one of my books and presentations. And if I’m that serious about writing several books at once, chances are I’m not interested in using half the other apps I had open.

A couple apps you won’t see on this list [of 29 apps] are Chrome and Slack. Both of these applications have widespread reports of being memory pigs, and in my opinion you should boycott them until the developers learn how to write them to play nicer with memory. You can’t fault Apple for poorly written applications, and if Apple did give you 32 GB of RAM just for them, it wouldn’t matter. Poorly written apps are going to continue sucking down as much memory as possible until you’re out. So it’s reasonable to say that if you’re running poorly written applications, your mileage will definitely vary. RAM is only one half the equation: programmers need to know how to use it respectfully.

Many users, though not all, who might see themselves sucking down 16GB+ of memory might consider they could have a lot of unnecessary crapware running at startup that they don’t need. Check your /Library/LaunchDaemons and /Library/LaunchAgents folders as well as your own LaunchAgents folder in ~/Library, and check your login items too. You might also check your system for malware, adware, and bloatware. Lastly, make sure you’ve updated your applications to the latest versions. Memory leaks are common bugs, and if you’re running an older, leakier version of an application, no amount of RAM upgrade is going to make things better.

«

Chrome always, unequivocally, wallops both my CPU and battery. (16GB 2012 MacBook Pro.) Slack I’m less worried about.
link to this extract


Bill Mitchell’s revenge • BuzzFeed News

Charlie Warzel on Bill Mitchell, an executive recruiter who had been predicting a Trump win for 15 months in the face of ridicule:

»

“Even though I expected a win, I’ll admit when Pennsylvania dropped, it was a little surreal,” he told me over the phone Saturday morning. “I felt just so alive — I think it’s a bit like being around when World War II was declared over. I just felt very fortunate to be around to see it.” On the phone, Mitchell took pains not to gloat but was clearly reveling in the win — he’d just bought a 70-inch TV and planned to break it in over the weekend. When I asked what we’d all missed in his Twitter punditry, Mitchell suggested that his haters had made him into a caricature rather than divining the kernel of truth hidden behind his often-bombastic language. Exhibit A: yard signs and rally attendance.

Bill Mitchell on Twitter: “There is no enthusiasm for Hillary. No yard signs, no book sales, no merchandise sales. THAT will hurt her turnout.”

The media mocked him ruthlessly for putting undue weight behind rallies over polling — a fatal error, according to Mitchell. “Rallies equal newly engaged voters,” he said. In 2008 Obama had tens of thousands who stand in line for six hours because they want to experience and taste and feel all this.” Mitchell refers to them as the “monster vote” and suggests that it’s these perhaps previously disenfranchised voters who aren’t on pollster call lists. “And so the big question was, will the 20 million who didn’t vote in 2012 come out for Trump? I kept saying it’s going to happen, no question — it’ll be something like 2008 where the previously quiet black vote came out for Obama. And it did.”

«

Compare with the previous profile Warzel did of Mitchell. I’ll admit: I also thought Mitchell was an idiot who couldn’t read polls. (I still think he can’t read polls.) But he read the real and virtual signs – enthusiasm matters – correctly.
link to this extract


Revenge of the forgotten class • ProPublica

Alec MacGillis spent time in the “Rust Belt” of Ohio, the state whose choice has matched the country’s choice of president again and again, and met first-time voter Tracie St Martin, 54, who works driving bulldozers:

»

she shared an anecdote that reflected how differently Trump’s comments had been received in some places than others. “I’m setting steel for this new gas plant…I’m operating a rough terrain forklift,” she wrote. “So today, I kept thinking about the debate and the audio was released … And I got underneath a load of steel and was moving it…I was laughing and laughing and one of the iron workers asked ‘what are u laughing at.’ I said ‘I grabbed that load right by the pussy’ and laughed some more…And said ‘when you’re an operator you can do that ya know’, laughed all fucking day.”

Just last week, I was back in Ohio, in the southeastern Appalachian corner. I was at a graduation ceremony for opiate addicts who had gone through a recovery program, and sitting with four women, all around 30, who were still in the program. Someone mentioned the election, and all four of them piped up that they were voting for the first time ever. For whom? I asked. They looked at me as if I had asked the dumbest question in the world. All four were for Trump.

The most of the loquacious of the group, Tiffany Chesser, said she was voting for him because her boyfriend worked at a General Electric light-bulb plant nearby that was seeing more of its production lines being moved to Mexico. She saw voting for Trump as a straightforward transaction to save his job. “If he loses that job we’re screwed — I’ll lose my house,” she said. “There used to be a full parking lot there — now you go by, there are just three trucks in the lot.”

«

About as far from the milquetoast niceties of Silicon Valley as it’s possible to be.
link to this extract


Android’s App Shortcuts are held back by Apple’s influence • Computerworld

JR Raphael:

»

If Android’s new App Shortcuts seem familiar, they should: The feature, introduced on Google’s Pixel phone as part of this fall’s Android 7.1 Nougat release, is a pretty obvious response to the 3D Touch system ushered into Apple’s iPhones over the past year.

In both instances, you press and hold an icon on your home screen to get a pop-up list of additional options – generally quick shortcuts to actions within the app, like composing a new message in Gmail or starting a search in Twitter. (And sure, the pressure-sensitivity factor in Apple’s implementation makes its version a little more technologically complex, but in practical terms, we’re basically talking about the same thing.)

Maybe it should come as no surprise, then, that Google’s take on the concept shares the same usability flaws as Apple’s — because instead of thinking through what’d be the most sensible and user-friendly way for a feature like this to work, Google seemed to just emulate the way Apple did it.

«

Problems he identifies: no visual clues that shortcuts exist, long press isn’t great for shortcuts. Solidly argued. 3D Touch is great because it also has taptic feedback, but you have to learn which apps have it.
link to this extract


Shhh! Shazam is always listening – even when it’s been switched ‘off’ • The Register

John Leyden:

»

A security researcher has discovered that when the Mac version of Shazam is switched off, it simply stops processing recorded data. The recording itself continues.

The music identification service admits the behaviour but says it only keeps recording purely for technical reasons.

Patrick Wardle, a former NSA staffer who heads up research at infosec biz Synack, confirmed Shazam’s “always listening” behaviour following a tip-off from a user of his webcam/mic monitoring tool, OverSight.

This person didn’t see a “Mic Off” alert when they turned off Shazam on their Mac, which prompted Wardle to do some digging.

“In short, turns out that when Shazam (macOS) is toggled ‘OFF’ it simply stops processing recorded data… However, recording continues,” Wardle told El Reg.

«

What need for the government to build surveillance when it can simply piggyback on the tools that we build for ourselves?
link to this extract


Amazon files lawsuits to keep counterfeit goods off website • Bloomberg

Spencer Soper:

»

Amazon filed two lawsuits against vendors allegedly selling counterfeit goods through its internet marketplace, stepping up efforts to keep fakes off the site heading into the holiday shopping season.

One suit targets ToysNet of Hacienda Heights, California; Disk Vision of Brandon, Florida; and individuals who Amazon says sold counterfeit Forearm Forklifts, straps used to carry heavy and bulky items. Amazon said it removed the fake items in June, and said Disk Vision forged an invoice to trick Amazon into reinstating the product listing. Another lawsuit targets several individuals who allegedly sold bogus TRX Suspension Trainers, an exercise system. The lawsuits were filed Monday in state court in Seattle. Amazon provided copies of the complaints, which couldn’t immediately be verified in court records.

Last month, Apple sued an Amazon seller, claiming the business sold fake Apple products – some of them unsafe – on Amazon.com. As its marketplace grows, Amazon has been taking action to bolster its reliability and boost credibility with customers. Last year, it filed a suit against more than 1,000 people it said wrote fake product reviews on its website, threatening shopper confidence in its consumer reviews. The company last month clamped down on so-called incentivized reviews, in which customers write about products they receive free or at discounted prices.

«

Fake news, fake goods. Everyone’s at it.
link to this extract


Exclusive: IDG in advanced talks to sell itself to Chinese buyout group – sources • Reuters

Liana B. Baker:

»

Founded in 1964, IDG has grown to be one of the largest global trade publishers, with hundreds of tech-focused websites and magazines. Its charismatic founder and longtime CEO, Pat McGovern, died two years ago.

IDG said in January that its board of directors hired investment bank Goldman Sachs to explore strategic options. Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

McGovern was very early to see the importance of China, and IDG has been doing business there since 1980, when it launched ComputerWorld China.

IDG has traditionally pursued a licensing model in which overseas publishing partners have broad latitude in what type of content they produce. That, in addition to IDG’s focus on business rather than politics, helped the company get an early foothold in China and steer clear of press restrictions.

But the sale of the company could face regulatory troubles. The Chinese buyout group will likely need to seek approval from the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment (CFIUS), the government panel that scrutinizes deals over national security concerns before finalizing any deal, according to the sources.

CFIUS has already caused a number of high-profile deals to fall apart, and President-elect Donald Trump’s tough commentary on China has made the future of that country’s investment in the United States even less certain.

One area regulators may dissect is the role of IDC, the market research division of the company that consults many U.S. technology companies on IT spending and business strategy and also keeps track of product shipments, the sources added.

«

link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: Snap’s Spectacles cost $129, not $149. Though will probably still be £149 if they ever reach the UK.

Start up: Touchbar Macs reviewed, another Facebook news row, consumer software in the 1980s, and more


Shown larger than actual size. Photo by John Koetsier 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.

Snap Spectacles are a solid first camera effort for the Snapchat crowd • Techcrunch

Mathew Panzarino:

»

The glasses even pair in a logical way for a Snap product. You just flip them open and snap a picture of your Snap code on the screen of your phone. This is both easy and logically aligned with Snap’s ‘universe’.

To record, you tap once for 10 seconds and twice more to extend the recording up to 30 seconds. A rotating LED on the front very clearly indicates recording — which should help reduce the creep factor just as much as the highly recognizable yellow rings and manual gesture to start recording.

The experience isn’t without its glitches. The glasses did drop Bluetooth connection at very short ranges and the transfer of snaps is too slow. Even the WiFi mode, manually enabled, for transferring ‘HD’ snaps is not all that zippy. But overall, it works as advertised.

The image quality is snap quality.

More than anything else here, though, the circular video is a revelation. When shot with Spectacles and displayed in your camera roll, it’s a circular disc. When viewed in Snapchat, the video fills the screen and as you rotate your device you get a smooth transition from vertical to horizontal, allowing you to see more of the image than if you’d just done one or the other. I only tried this on iPhone though it is available on Android as well.

«

$149 (so if they ever reach the UK, that’s £149, perhaps plus VAT) and they look like Google Glass done right – low-end disruption of the phone camera.
link to this extract


Powa Technologies payments investigated by administrators • Daily Telegraph

Ben Martin:

»

Administrators to Powa Technologies are examining payments the e-commerce firm made to offshore vehicles linked to the father and a friend of the founder of the company before it imploded.

It is understood that Deloitte has looked at transactions between Powa, which was set up and led by Dan Wagner, and DBLP Sea Cow, a vehicle linked to Mr Wagner’s father, John, between 2013 and 2015. 

The administrators also wrote to directors asking for information on payments made between 2014 and 2015 from Powa to Annenberg Investments Management, another offshore vehicle thought to be linked to Anthony Sharp, the former deputy chairman of the collapsed technology firm and a friend of Mr Wagner.

«

Hang on, just looking for the “one eyebrow raised, like Mr Spock” emoji.
link to this extract


A British phone you’re not embarrassed to carry? You heard that right • The Register

Andrew Orlowski:

»

WileyFox continues to run Cyanogen OS, but has promised regular OTA upgrades – Cyanogen Inc switched away from providing platforms recently. There are two Swift 2 models, essentially identical visually, with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM, and a Plus version with 32GB and 3GB of RAM, and a slightly beefier main shooter (16MP to 13MP). The Plus weighs in at £189 (€219).

The 720p looks crisp and the octacore Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 is no slouch. The camera boasts phase detection auto focus and large pixels – photos in the low light of the launch venue seem pretty reasonable. QuickCharge 3.0 and NFC are included. The phone can support two SIMs, or one SIM and a microSD.

CEO Michael Coombes told The Reg that the company is now up to around 140 staff. The phones go through rigorous operator tests that the Chinese grey channel Shenzhen generics can’t meet. Coombes also pointed out that only 5% of Shenzhen manufacturing lines can produce kit that meets Western European standards. WileyFox’s Swifts do.

«

Coombes told me that WileyFox has sold half a million phones, all in western Europe; the next growth area is likely to be wider in the EEA.

I let my 11-year-old try this phone. His comment: playing Roblox, you could see the screen stutter on redraw, which didn’t happen on his iPod Touch. His verdict: unimpressed. Testers, eh?
link to this extract


Amazon’s next big move: take over the mall • MIT Technology Review

Nick Carr goes for a wander around Amazon’s first physical bookstore in Seattle:

»

the smartphone, with its apps, its messaging platforms, and its constant connectivity, gives retailers more ways to communicate with and influence customers, even when they’re shopping in stores. This is why the big trend in retailing today is toward “omnichannel” strategies, which blend physical stores, Web stores, and mobile apps in a way that makes the most of the convenience of smartphones and overcomes their limitations. Some omnichannel pioneers, like Sephora and Nordstrom, come from the brick-and-mortar world. But others, like Warby Parker and Bonobos, come from the Web world. Now, with its physical stores, Amazon is following in their tracks. “Pure-play Web retailing is not sustainable,” New York University marketing professor Scott Galloway told me. He points out that the deep discounting and high delivery costs that characterize Web sales have made it hard for Amazon to turn a profit. If Amazon were to remain an online-only merchant, he says, its future success would be in jeopardy. He believes the company will end up opening “hundreds and then thousands of stores.”

«

It might find cheap space where the old bookstores were.
link to this extract


Facebook’s fight against fake news was undercut by fear of conservative backlash • Gizmodo

Michael Nunez:

»

Gizmodo has learned that the company is, in fact, concerned about the issue, and has been having a high-level internal debate since May about how the network approaches its role as the largest news distributor in the US. The debate includes questions over whether the social network has a duty to prevent misinformation from spreading to the 44% of Americans who get their news from the social network.

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

“They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”

«

link to this extract


Google showing inaccurate top news search result about popular vote • Business Insider

Sonam Sheth:

»

If you Googled “final election count” on Monday morning to find out which presidential candidate was ahead in the popular vote, you might have noticed something strange about the search results.

Namely, the top Google News result links to a WordPress blog called “70 News,” which claims that Donald Trump won the popular vote by a margin of almost 700,000 votes, and cites Twitter as its source…

…When reached for comment about the search discrepancy, a Google representative confirmed to Business Insider that they are looking into the matter.

«

No no no! This week’s villain for the two-minute hate is Facebook. Haven’t you been paying attention?

More likely the algorithms for search have started warring.
link to this extract


Why journalists love Twitter • Current Affairs

Emily Robinson:

»

presenting tweets as evidence of some national or global trend (rather than as a trend on a social media platform) is several shades of problematic. Inevitably, if we take trending hashtags for actual trends, we will be dealing with a biased sample: we are looking at what is popular among people who spend time on Twitter rather than among people more broadly. Forgetting the Internet’s biases creates delusion. We may treat the artisanal cupcake blogs we follow on Tumblr as representative of every cupcake in the world, but frozen, flavor-free grocery-store cupcakes are destined to remain the norm in most of real life.

When it comes to political journalism, treating the Internet as representative of reality can heavily bias coverage. It’s because the press gets its worldview from Twitter that it was stunned by the persistence of support for Donald Trump. After all, subsequent to every new vulgar eruption from Trump’s mouth during the campaign, a torrent of outrage poured forth on Twitter, leading pundits to repeatedly declare that Trump’s campaign was finally dead (The Onion captured this kind of wishful insistence nicely with the headline: “‘This Will Be The End Of Trump’s Campaign,’ Says Increasingly Nervous Man For Seventh Time This Year”). Yet Trump maintained support from nearly half the electorate. It was almost as if the online world was a poor representation of the world at large.

«

The other day there was an article in The Independent (online only) about the US which drew its story from 10 tweets on a topic by completely random people. No further justification was given.
link to this extract


MacBook Pro with Touch Bar review: a touch of the future • The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:

»

it seems to me there are few instances when removing your fingers from the letter keys so that you can tap a word you’ve already half-typed would be much faster.

Those are the simpler issues. The Touch Bar gets worse when Apple tries to do too much with it. In Pages, for example, the Touch Bar displays at least five types of buttons: one that slides out with a keyboard, one that pops up new formatting options, two that drill down into scrollable menus, one that drills down into a static menu, and several more that are just toggles.

The difference between a menu opening left or right or up or down may seem slight, but the effect is very disorienting. There were times I felt lost in the Touch Bar, unable to return to the screen I wanted. These moments didn’t last long — but any length of time that I’m stuck in a menu on my keyboard is too long.

This is a recurring problem throughout Apple’s apps. The Touch Bar is often used like a menu, rather than a quick set of controls. Having those menu options exposed so clearly can be helpful at times — I’m bad at finding formulas in Keynote, for instance, and the Touch Bar makes them easy to access — but mostly it’s not. These apps don’t need more menus; they need better context for people just starting out in them, and a streamlined way for experienced users to get stuff done.

The good news is that the Touch Bar’s interface is all software. It can be updated and refined and improved. I suspect it’ll take a little while before Apple and third-party developers find the best use for each of their specific apps, but I hope they’ll learn quickly that there’s a fine line between presenting helpful options and overwhelming their users.

«

Possibly not everyone types as fast as a full-time text journalist – just a guess on my part – but some of Kastrenakes’s points sound as though things didn’t quite get standardised ahead of launch.
link to this extract


Apple MacBook Pro review: same, better and worse • WSJ

Joanna Stern says that things are mostly the same, apart from:

»

Touch Bar. On the two higher-end MacBook Pro models, Apple replaced the traditional row of function keys with a new glowing touch strip. I find it most useful for inserting emojis, scrubbing through videos and music and changing font color.

Otherwise, I can accomplish many shortcuts faster with the keyboard or trackpad. (Example: Cmd-B bolds words quicker than I can lift a finger to hit the Touch Bar’s little “B.”) Plus, you always have to look up since the controls keep changing and your sense of touch doesn’t help at all.

Touch ID. The biggest hardware advancement isn’t the Touch Bar, it’s the fingerprint sensor. Tapping the shiny black square is much speedier than punching in passwords. Why this isn’t available on all of Apple’s MacBook laptops—especially the entry-level, 13-inch, no Touch Bar Pro—is baffling.

«

Also, lotta dongles to be bought. I suspect people will drift slowly to these new machines, and Touch ID will be introduced to the other laptops over time. (Not desktops, unless you have a touch sensor on the main body unit; I don’t see how the Secure Enclave can be in a separate keyboard and retain security.)

The life cycle for PCs is lengthening. That’s about all there is to it. Intel’s not helping either.
link to this extract


NHS IT bod sends test email to 1.2 million users – and then responses are sent ‘reply all’ • The Register

Gareth Corfield:

»

A test email sent by accident to 1.2 million NHS workers has caused utter chaos after being sent from an apparently incorrectly configured* email distribution list.

The sender, who The Register will identify only as R, sent the blank message with a subject line that simply read “test” to a distribution list called CroydonPractices, according to irritated health service workers who contacted us.

The message somehow found its way to all NHS.net email addresses – and was immediately magnified by thoughtless people hitting “reply all” to point out the error and demand they be removed.

Sources said actual work emails were delayed by at least three hours at the time of writing, thanks to the huge volumes of traffic snarling up NHS.net servers. By 11.30am we were told that 70 or 80 people had reply-all’d to the message, inadvertently copying it to all 1.2 million NHS employees.

«

Email as DDOS.
link to this extract


Federal agency doing business with Trump is trying to avoid a massive conflict of interest • BuzzFeed News

Aram Roston:

»

In 2012, the General Services Administration agreed to lease the Old Post Office Building — a landmark building just blocks from the White House — to Trump’s organization so that the mogul could turn it into a luxury hotel. In the complicated 109-page lease, Trump is required to pay the GSA $3m a year plus a portion of his revenue, and he has to abide by a complex set of restrictions regarding what he can do and how he can build.

But once Trump becomes president, he will have authority over the GSA and will be able to fire its administrator at will, raising profound issues of a conflict.

Questioned about that conflict, a GSA spokesperson sent a statement to BuzzFeed News: “Prior to Mr. Trump taking the oath of office, GSA plans to coordinate with the President-elect’s transition team to allow a plan to be put in place to identify and address any potential conflict of interest relating to the Old Post Office building.”

Trump spokesperson Hope Hicks did not respond to emailed questions about the matter.

It’s been extensively reported that Trump often does not pay his bills, and this has been a characteristic business practice for decades. If Trump’s company stops paying rent to the US government, shortchanges the taxpayer on revenue sharing, or harms the priceless landmark in any way, it is the GSA that would have to enforce the lease.

«

Does the GSA drain swamps, or if that someone else’s job?
link to this extract


What writing – and selling – software was like in the 80’s • The Codist

Andrew Wulf:

»

We finally shipped [our software, Trapeze] at Macworld SF in January 1987.

Now what does that mean? Today shipping is nothing, push a few buttons and it’s uploaded somewhere. In those days shipping meant floppy disk duplicators, printers for manuals, boxes, and actual shipping. Who did you ship to? Distributors and mail order houses. You rarely sold to end users. Distributors took cases of boxes, putting a short description into a paper catalog they gave to retailers. If they sold any they sent you a check 90-180 days later. Anything they didn’t sell came back 6 months later. Mail order usually paid quicker. Distributors would pay you around 30% of the retail price; the mail order people were a little better. If you wanted a retailer to stock your app you were expected to advertise; no one did anything free for you other than put you in a catalog. This made making money a pain in the ass.

Of course potential customers had to figure out you existed, demand you from their retailer who hopefully ordered from the distributor. If they did buy a copy you only found out who they were if they filled out a registration card or called for support. When I think back at how crappy this all was I wonder why I ever got into it! Today it all sounds stupid.

We got a good review in Macworld, but the guy who wrote the MacUser review had a bad day and the review was horrible. Of course these were written in January and only came out three months later. The one bad review killed our sales.

«

link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: SoC wars, more Brexit PC price hikes, USB smuggling, Pixel reviewed, and more


Can we blame Facebook for this? Makes sense to some folk. Photo by outtacontext 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. Trajectorified! I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How the SoC [system on a chip] is displacing the CPU • Medium

Pushkar Ranade:

»

The present decade represents a period of strategic inflection in the evolution of the semiconductor industry — the next five years are likely to see a confluence of several technology and market forces which will collectively have a profound impact on the course of the industry. These trajectories are discussed below.

…Trajectory #2: A Central Role for the GPU

Usage models of the tablet and the smartphone indicate that the GPU is the most heavily used block within SoCs like the Tegra, Snapdragon and the A8X. Since the GPU is the largest block and also consumes most of the power on the chip, it is instructive that the silicon transistor be designed to optimize the performance and power of the GPU. It is likely that design houses and foundries will make the GPU the centerpiece for transistor design and manufacturing — historically all the blocks including the GPU had to adapt a transistor that had primarily been designed for the CPU. The rapid evolution of the SoC and the increasing role of the GPU are evident in successive generations of Apple A*x family processors. The GPU on the A8X processor occupies almost a third of the die area.

«

The Intel-style CISC CPU has almost reached the end of its evolution.
link to this extract


Smuggling USB sticks • Terence Eden’s Blog

»

This is a microSD card. Currently on sale in the UK for under £14.
It can hold 32GB of information. That’s a little abstract, so let me break it down in to more understandable units.
32GB is, roughly, 30,000 minutes of music (that’s 21 days worth of listening. Or, if you prefer, 700 CDs.); 40 standard definition movies; 20 high definition movies; 35,000 novels (those books would take up over a kilometre of shelving).

What I’m trying to get at, is this. It’s quicker to send a 32GB card through the post than it is to download its entire contents. The cards are small enough to hide anywhere.

This is what happens is countries like Cuba:

»

Only about 2% of Cubans can get online, but it doesn’t matter. You don’t need the internet. The news may be a little stale by the time you read it, but it gets around. Whole stacks of HTML files from news websites are dumped onto USB drives.

«

I don’t know what will happen to the Internet. SOPA, DEA, and HADOPI all conspire to break the way we share knowledge – under the benign guise of copyright protection.

And yet all it takes is a dozen USB sticks, a few memory cards, and very little effort to break their embargo.

«

link to this extract


Brexflation: Lenovo, HPE and Walkers crisps all set for double-digit hike • The Register

Paul Kunert:

»

A second wave of double-digit price hikes are coming to a reseller or retailer near you from the start of next month, both Hewlett Packard Enterprise and Lenovo have confirmed.

Since the referendum, the UK’s currency has fallen from $1.49 per £1 to $1.21, a drop of 18.7% and many IT makers have reacted, from the cloud giants including AWS through to hardware players.

American titan HPE already raised its list price by between 6% to 10% on 1 August, and Lenovo pushed up its prices by 10% on the same date – both blamed depreciation of the pound.

Now all of Lenovo’s kit is going to jump by another 10% from 1 December for UK customers and HPE will raise its gear by 6% to 12%.

A Lenovo spokesman told The Register: “Like any global company we always take currency exchange rates into consideration in our pricing strategy.

“This is business as usual and part of the market conditions in which any international company operates. Any changes form part of our ongoing communication with our channel partners.”

«

It’s the second price rise. Wow. Apple seems to have done the same, but holding off for longer and then doing it in one single 20% hike.
link to this extract


We Predicted Trump would win – here’s how – Dataswarm

Alan Patrick:

»

So why had our system worked  when nearly all the other polls and pundits had called it wrong? Now we have had a day or so to look at the outcomes, we think there are four main reasons.

Firstly, Internet vs human polling. Our system is looking at verbatim Social Media data, from Twitter. We had come to the conclusion while monitoring previous UK general elections that people were more willing to share their true thoughts on social media than with pollsters, especially if their views were “non-PC” (in this case, pro-Trump). After the election we read that the LA Times poll, which had consistently been more pro Trump (and been roundly criticised by nearly every pundit), had been an internet poll, not using people to ask questions, and they believed (and were proved right) that people had been more honest on that. (And more recently, an article on TechCrunch showing other Social Media companies were seeing similar to us – though few put it out there ) In effect by monitoring social media, we were getting the same sort of uncensored opinions, and in that uncensored world Trump was doing a lot better than the standard polls were predicting. Also, we knew from UK elections about the “shy Tory” effect where people say one thing – typically to look good (virtue signalling as it is called) –  in public, and do another at the ballot box (To misquote Phil Ochs, Liberals are 10% left of centre in public, 10% right of centre at the ballot box).

«

I’m wary of social media analyses which claim this stuff, especially around Brexit and Trump, where the motivations would be less visible on social media (and yet stronger) because the people involved probably aren’t using it.
link to this extract


Fake news and rabbit holes: radicalization via the recommendation engine • Medium

Renee DiResta:

»

I know a handful people who have Facebook accounts that are used exclusively for research purposes. These accounts have no friends and never directly interact with other users. They have location data by default, based on the IP address that the user signed up with, and perhaps some minimal amount of A/S/L [age, sex, language] stuff required for sign-up, so Facebook has some idea of what they might want to see from the get-go. The accounts exist to observe what Facebook serves in terms of Pages, News, and Group recommendations when the individual’s direct social graph is kept to a minimum.

Groups appear to be incredibly important. If you join a Facebook Group for a particular topic, it will naturally serve you other Groups, Pages, and news content related to that topic. Join a couple more, and it’ll look at the people who are common to the groups, decide that you are probably something like them, and then suggest other Groups based on groups that they are in. So even if you’ve never directly interacted with them, what you see is influenced by what people who share this interest with you want to see. I’ve looked at this as it pertains to pseudoscience — join a “vaccine hesitant” group, and your suggestions will quickly begin to include chemtrails, anti-GMO, flat earth, anti-flouride and homeopathy groups. This isn’t unique to Facebook, it’s just affinity marketing. It’s how every site with something to sell you tries to guess at what you might like. But on Facebook, the data set is the best in the world, and the recommendations are likely to include something that you’d be curious enough to click on. It’s fair to argue that Facebook is simply giving people what they would find on their own…but, anecdotally, it actually appears to be shaping what they want as it helps them discover new things.

«

link to this extract


Facebook, in crosshairs after election, is said to question its influence • New York Times

Mike Isaac on the aftermath inside Facebook from the US election:

»

issues with fake news on the site have mushroomed. Multiple Facebook employees were particularly disturbed last week when a fake news site called The Denver Guardian spread across the social network with negative and false messages about Mrs. Clinton, including a claim that an F.B.I. agent connected to Mrs. Clinton’s email disclosures had murdered his wife and shot himself.

On Thursday, after a companywide meeting at Facebook, many employees said they were dissatisfied with an address from Mr. Zuckerberg, who offered comments to staff that were similar to what he has said publicly.

Even in private, Mr. Zuckerberg has continued to resist the notion that Facebook can unduly affect how people think and behave. In a Facebook post circulated on Wednesday to a small group of his friends, which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Zuckerberg challenged the idea that Facebook had a direct effect on the way people voted.

In the three-paragraph post, the chief executive cited several statistics about low voter turnout during the election.

«

Isaac’s piece is terrific journalism – he has a variety of inside sources – and as he points out, Facebook’s insistence that it didn’t influence thinking is at odds with what it tells advertisers.
link to this extract


Mark Zuckerberg – I want to share some thoughts on Facebook and the election • Facebook

El Zuck:

»

Our goal is to show people the content they will find most meaningful, and people want accurate news. We have already launched work enabling our community to flag hoaxes and fake news, and there is more we can do here. We have made progress, and we will continue to work on this to improve further.

This is an area where I believe we must proceed very carefully though. Identifying the “truth” is complicated. While some hoaxes can be completely debunked, a greater amount of content, including from mainstream sources, often gets the basic idea right but some details wrong or omitted. An even greater volume of stories express an opinion that many will disagree with and flag as incorrect even when factual. I am confident we can find ways for our community to tell us what content is most meaningful, but I believe we must be extremely cautious about becoming arbiters of truth ourselves.

As we continue our research, we are committed to always updating you on how News Feed evolves. We hope to have more to share soon, although this work often takes longer than we’d like in order to confirm changes we make won’t introduce unintended side effects or bias into the system.

«

You mean, unintended side effects like you already do through the fact that Facebook’s newsfeed is biased to attention, not accuracy, and always has been?
link to this extract


Facebook is telling everyone that they’re dead • The Verge

Casey Newton:

»

Facebook is capping one of the longest weeks in American history by telling everyone that they are dead. Log on to your profile and there’s a good chance it will have a memorial banner sitting on top of it, urging your friends and family members to remember you. “We hope people who love Casey will find comfort in the things others share to remember and celebrate his life,” the banner reads, because I am dead.

Other people who are dead include everyone.

Our condolences to everyone who is dead, and to everyone who would have mourned them, if they were not dead. But dead they are. It has been an honor and a pleasure living on this planet with you all.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment, likely because everyone there is dead.

«

Chapeau, Mr Newton.
link to this extract


IoT Security • DevicePilot

»

In this DevicePilot white paper we summarise the various aspects of security which need to be considered when designing connected products for the Internet of Things… Why exactly might you (or your users) care about security? What are you trying to prevent? What are the risks? What’s the worst that could happen? Let’s illustrate the risks with a few concrete examples:

• TriplePoint Inc. is launching a range of Smart Meters with remotely-operable power switches. If an attacker gained control over their network the risk is not just that they might shut-down the 1 million homes in which they are installed, but might also crash large part of the distribution grid by adding or removing massive loads synchronously, overwhelming the emergency services for weeks. This would result not just in huge economic damage, but in the deaths of large numbers of vulnerable people.

• Edison Motors has a range of connected automobiles which synchronise with home WiFi to get updates and allow the vehicle to be remote-managed by both the owner and the manufacturer. The risks include not “just” attack on the vehicle’s essential systems, compromising safety, but also the potential to use the cars as a “botnet” to attack other computer systems on the internet.

• Babbadoo Products have just launched their new remote baby monitoring system for at-risk neonatal infants, which includes a live video feed. Risks include––

«

OK THAT’S ENOUGH!
link to this extract


Final words – the Google Pixel XL review: life after Nexus • Anandtech

Matt Humrick and Brandon Chester:

»

In the end, the Pixel XL is a decent enough phone, but it is not the ultimate Android phone that people were likely hoping for. It fails to stand out in a crowded market and cannot claim to be the best in any single category; at best it is a jack of all trades. This is a serious problem for a phone that is positioned as and priced like a flagship phone. It also does not help that it’s missing support for microSD cards and wireless charging (it does support the USB Power Delivery specification for 18W fast charging), features that are available on the Galaxy S7 edge. There’s also no environmental protection against water and dust, which both the S7 edge and iPhone 7 Plus include. Even its exclusive software feature, Google Assistant, should be available on future Android phones. In the end, the Pixel XL is a Nexus phone with another name. It still delivers a pure Android experience and timely software and security updates, but is that enough to justify its flagship price?

«

I think Google will be able to sell all it makes, through the strength of advertising and the absence of the Note 7, but next year Samsung is going to go after them with intent.
link to this extract


The problem with voice user interfaces like Amazon’s Alexa • Econsultancy

Ben Davis:

»

Imagine I own a Google Home speaker and all my family are asking it questions. At the moment, the device only supports a single Google account.

So, my family’s media choices and shopping habits will be logged as indicative of my behaviour, and will shape future recommendations (not to mention use my payment details, access my email account etc.).

There are implications for the accuracy of future recommendations and contextual understanding (e.g. of my whereabouts), as well as the potential for misuse (by a cheeky guest).

Essentially, the device should be personal but plainly isn’t.

Google is working on a solution to allow multiple accounts, but surely problems will still arise unless these devices learn to differentiate between voices (or users regularly deactivate or lock their devices). 

Though Alexa has plenty of great reviews, it’s clear that speech analysis is nowhere near robust enough to prevent annoying UX failures. Namely, asking five times before giving up and using a graphical user interface.

This is perhaps best demonstrated by Satya Nadella’s use of Cortana at 2015’s DreamForce event. As described by Yahoo! Tech, Nadella ‘began by asking Cortana, “Show me my most at-risk opportunities. Cortana hilariously interpreted it as, “Show me to buy milk at this opportunity.”’

On Nadella’s second attempt at the command, Cortana erroenously created a reminder of some sort.

Of course, the tech will continue to improve, and currently works best when limited to a number of common commands (music, shopping list etc.), but for someone with a terribly flat telephone voice like myself, misunderstanding is something I have to consider.

«

link to this extract


Russian hackers launch targeted cyberattacks hours after Trump’s win • Motherboard

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:

»

Around 9 a.m. ET on Wednesday, the hackers sent a series of phishing emails trying to trick dozens of victims into opening booby-trapped attachments containing malware, and clicking on malicious links, according to security firm Volexity, which observed and reported the five attack waves. The targets work for organizations such as Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, the Atlantic Council, the RAND Corporation, and the State Department, among others.

One of the phishing emails included a forwarded message appearing to be from the Clinton Foundation, apparently sent by a professor at Harvard. The email used the professor’s real address, and according to Volexity’s founder Steven Adair, it’s likely that the professor got hacked and the attackers then used his account to send out the phishing emails. (The professor did not respond to a request for comment.)

«

Wasn’t flagged by antivirus, but that’s because it was a link to a zip file with the malware. Can we say again that attachments are harmful?
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: light caught in the wave/particle act, the fake news advertisers, MacBook Pro lift, and more


Flooding in South Beach, Miami Beach. Climate change? Strangely repeated accident? Photo by maxstrz on Flickr.

You can 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 10 links for you. Unsafe without adult supervision. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Advertisers don’t care about fake news sites • Medium

Rob Leathern:

»

Advertisers I’m seeing on this page include Air China, King Soopers, TruthFinder, Grammarly, and App Annie (all via Google), Norton (via Conversant), Spoutable, and of course the Revcontent clickbait ads.

The creation and distribution of fake and misleading news and disinformation is being financed by these ad networks. It’s almost impossible for an advertiser to audit this effectively, so my guess is most advertisers don’t care yet about being on these kinds of sites alongside fake news.
When display advertising exchanges and networks were flooded by lots of new low-cost traffic from piracy/download sites 5+ years ago, for the first year or two they were full of ad networks arbitraging brand advertising, until advertisers and their agencies eventually forced accountability and action (even still, arbitrage and redirection of this traffic through hidden iframes) persisted and still does.

Perhaps it takes a while for the screenshots to filter up through the ad agency-industrial complex to arrive in the email inbox of some CMO or SVP of Marketing at the client, or for self-same SVP to visit those questionable sites from a shared link, their own retargeting cookies making sure they see their own brand on the site…

But it’s going to happen, and once big brand advertisers do care about fake news, so will the rest of the ad ecosystem follow.

«

link to this extract


Ad executives brace for possible post-election ad spending slowdown • WSJ

Suzanne Vranica:

»

“Uncertainty is bad for ad spending growth,” said Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting for Zenith, an ad buying and research arm of Publicis Groupe. Still, he said there will not be an “apocalyptic pullback” and just how much contraction occurs depends largely on how the economy performs and what specific moves the new administration makes.

If Mr. Trump follows through on some campaign promises such as his pledge to overhaul trade treaties and deport illegal immigrants then “we could see a slowdown in economic growth, which will hurt ad spending, Mr. Barnard added.

Any policy affecting the auto industry could have major ramifications since the sector is the largest driver of ad spending in the U.S. Mr. Trump has threatened to slap 35% tariffs on cars imported from Mexico.

“It’s plausible that if tariffs are applied there will be a countrywide impact but there are also specific sectors that may be punished like autos,” and that could hurt ad expenditures, said Brian Wieser, senior research analyst at Pivotal Research Group. “It depends on policy and that is a massive wild card right now.”

«

Well golly.
link to this extract


Apple’s newest MacBook Pro generated 7x more online revenue than MacBook at launch • Slice Intelligence

Taylor Stanton of Slice, which looks at the emails landing in peoples’ inboxes:

»

The new MacBook Pro is here, and Slice Intelligence reports that in the first five days of availability online, the latest model generated over seven times the revenue that the MacBook 12-inch did during its April 2015 launch. The new model’s sales already equal 78% of all the revenue generated by the MacBook 12-inch since it became available, and has accumulated more revenue than any other laptop this year.

This successful launch may be luring those who have abandoned Apple back to the brand. Touch-screen technology has been deployed by other laptop brands for years and shoppers looking for the newest technology would have to move away from Apple to try the new tech.

«

Surface Book looking a bit poky there. But it’s taking the top end of the Windows market.

link to this extract


In the rush to blame Facebook come the calls to suppress ideas people disagree with • Techdirt

Mike Masnick:

»

In 1876, opponents of Rutherford B. Hayes spread the rumor that he had shot his own mother. In 1928, supporters of Herbert Hoover started spreading rumors that (the Catholic) Al Smith was connecting the newly built Holland Tunnel in NY all the way to the Vatican so that the Pope would weigh in on all Presidential matters. In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower supporters distributed pamphlets claiming that his opponent, Adlai Stephenson had once killed a young girl “in a jealous rage.”

Point being: fake news is spread in basically every election for the US President in history. It didn’t take Facebook’s algorithms, and it won’t go away if Facebook’s algorithms change.

In fact, it’s likely to make things even worse. Remember the mostly made up “controversy” about Facebook suppressing conservative news? Remember the outrage it provoked (or have you already forgotten?). Just imagine what would happen if Facebook now decided that it was only going to let people share “true” news. Whoever gets to decide that kind of thing has tremendous power – and there will be immediately claims of bias and hiding “important” stories – even if they’re bullshit. It will lead many of the people who are already angry about things to argue that their views are being suppressed and hidden and that they are being “censored.” That’s not a good recipe. And it’s an especially terrible recipe if people really want to understand why so many people are so angry at the status quo.

Telling them that the news needs to be censored to “protect” them isn’t going to magically turn Trump supporters into Hillary supporters. It will just convince them that they’re even more persecuted.

«

link to this extract


‘Web Of Trust’ browser add-on caught selling users’ data — uninstall it now • Hacker News

»

Web of Trust has been offering a “Safe Web Search & Browsing” service since 2007. The WOT browser extension, which is available for both Firefox and Chrome, uses crowdsourcing to rate websites based on trustworthiness and child safety.

However, it turns out that the Web of Trust service collects extensive data about netizens’ web browsing habits via its browser add-on and then sells them off to various third party companies.

What’s extremely worrying? Web of Trust did not properly anonymize the data it collects on its users, which means it is easy to expose your real identity and every detail about you.

The WOT Privacy Policy states that your IP address, geo-location, the type of device, operating system, and browser you use, the date and time, Web addresses, and browser usage are all collected, but they are in “non-identifiable” format.

However, NDR found that it was very easy to link the anonymized data to its individual users.

The reporters focused on just a small data sample of around 50 WOT users, and were able to retrieve a lot of data, which included:
• Account name
• Mailing address
• Shopping habits
• Travel plans
• Possible illnesses
• Sexual preferences
• Drug consumption
• Confidential company information
• Ongoing police investigations
• Browser surfing activity including all sites visited

This data belonged to just 50 users, and WOT has more than 140m users.

«

Door to empty stable, consider yourself bolted.
link to this extract


The first ever photograph of light as both a particle and wave • PhysOrg

»

A research team led by Fabrizio Carbone at EPFL has now carried out an experiment with a clever twist: using electrons to image light. The researchers have captured, for the first time ever, a single snapshot of light behaving simultaneously as both a wave and a stream of particles.

The experiment is set up like this: A pulse of laser light is fired at a tiny metallic nanowire. The laser adds energy to the charged particles in the nanowire, causing them to vibrate. Light travels along this tiny wire in two possible directions, like cars on a highway. When waves traveling in opposite directions meet each other they form a new wave that looks like it is standing in place. Here, this standing wave becomes the source of light for the experiment, radiating around the nanowire.

This is where the experiment’s trick comes in: The scientists shot a stream of electrons close to the nanowire, using them to image the standing wave of light. As the electrons interacted with the confined light on the nanowire, they either sped up or slowed down. Using the ultrafast microscope to image the position where this change in speed occurred, Carbone’s team could now visualize the standing wave, which acts as a fingerprint of the wave-nature of light.

«

Science!

link to this extract


Trump picks top climate skeptic to lead EPA transition • Scientific American

Robin Bravender:

»

Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, is spearheading Trump’s transition plans for EPA, the sources said.

The Trump team has also lined up leaders for its Energy Department and Interior Department teams. Republican energy lobbyist Mike McKenna is heading the DOE team; former Interior Department solicitor David Bernhardt is leading the effort for that agency, according to sources close to the campaign.

Ebell is a well-known and polarizing figure in the energy and environment realm. His participation in the EPA transition signals that the Trump team is looking to drastically reshape the climate policies the agency has pursued under the Obama administration. Ebell’s role is likely to infuriate environmentalists and Democrats but buoy critics of Obama’s climate rules.

Ebell, who was dubbed an “elegant nerd” and a “policy wonk” by Vanity Fair, is known for his prolific writings that question what he calls climate change “alarmism.” He appears frequently in the media and before Congress. He’s also chairman of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of nonprofits that “question global warming alarmism and oppose energy-rationing policies.”

«

Perhaps Ebell would like to put his money where his mouth is by moving to Miami Beach. (It’s reached via a causeway just off Miami.) Also: natural processes don’t care whether you believe in them or not. They’ll occur regardless.
link to this extract


Scottish island to use spare TV spectrum to speed up broadband • Wired

James Temperton:

»

Spare wireless spectrum leftover from the digital TV switchover will be used to improve broadband access on the Scottish island of Arran.

The rollout, the first of its kind in Europe, will be used to improve broadband speeds for the island’s 5,000 residents. It’s hoped the use of TV white space can help bridge the urban-rural broadband divide and better connect the UK’s more remote communities.

The technology is being rolled-out through a partnership between internet firm Nominet and broadband campaign group Broadway Partners. TV white space has been trialled and teased as a potentially useful technology ever since vast swathes became available when the UK completed its move to digital TV in October 2012.

As TV white space is near-ubiquitous, and easy to access, it doesn’t require expensive additional infrastructure to launch new services on it. The commercial roll-out on Arran will, according to Nominet, bring relatively high data-rates across the island.

«

link to this extract


Twitter’s chief operating officer to step down • The New York Times

Mike Isaac:

»

For many months, Twitter has been trying to reshape itself as a growing social media service. That attempt now includes reshaping the company’s top ranks.

On Wednesday, Twitter said that Adam Bain, its chief operating officer, plans to leave the company. Mr. Bain was well liked by Wall Street for building up and running Twitter’s once fast-growing advertising business.

Many of Mr. Bain’s duties and his direct lieutenants, including those who manage ad sales and partnerships with marketers and broadcast media companies, will be under the purview of Anthony Noto, Twitter’s chief financial officer. Mr. Noto will take on the chief operating officer title, and Twitter said it would begin a search for a new chief financial officer.

“The past six years have been incredible, and I’m inspired by what Twitter has become and what it will be in the future,” Mr. Bain said in a statement.

«

I don’t feel that this is an encouraging sign, and certainly not for those remaining at Twitter. Bain had been there since 2010. Noto has been there since 2014. Expect more job cuts and more aggressive attempts to monetise tweets. I get the feeling that the horizon of Twitter’s ambitions has shrunk dramatically in the past six months.
link to this extract


Google could ban third-party fast charging hardware in upcoming Android phones AndroidAuthority

John Callaham:

»

updated documentation from Google clearly wants smartphone makers to stick with the USB Power Delivery standards that are used on its own Pixel phones:

»

Type-C devices are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to not support proprietary charging methods that modify Vbus voltage beyond default levels, or alter sink/source roles as such may result in interoperability issues with the chargers or devices that support the standard USB Power Delivery methods. While this is called out as “STRONGLY RECOMMENDED”, in future Android versions we might REQUIRE all type-C devices to support full interoperability with standard type-C chargers.

«

That last sentence should be a pretty clear warning that Google could clamp down on these outside fast charging technologies offered by Qualcomm, OPPO, MediaTek and others in the near future.

«

Perhaps also lookin’ at you, Samsung 🔥🔥🔥. However: on what basis does Google get to dictate this?
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: Trump’s impact on tech, AI goes phishing, DDOS that heating!, how we read news now, and more


Too many bubbles in the tech world? Photo by Charos Pix on Flickr.

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

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

Trump victory could mean tougher times for tech • The Information

Reed Albergotti:

»

Mr. Trump is widely viewed as a wild card among people involved in tech policy. He’s been vague about most policy areas, making it tough for anyone to be sure what he will do. But with Republicans in control of both houses of Congress, he will have a lot of power.

And during his campaign he was hostile towards several parts of the tech industry. He took aim at the H1-B immigration program, which tech companies lean on heavily to hire foreign workers. His official platform called for U.S. companies to try to hire American workers first. Bolstering his calls for companies to consider “America first,” he’s also advocated for companies like Apple to make hardware in the United States rather than China.

He’s also called for a boycott of Apple unless it ceded to FBI demands that it build a “back door” to the iPhone so the agency could read texts sent by the San Bernardino terrorists. Mr. Trump has attacked Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, claiming the company doesn’t pay “fair taxes.” His broader “law and order” campaign themes suggest he could be more forceful against tech companies, while President Obama and Hillary Clinton looked to balance national security with privacy.

«

Ben Thompson, in Stratechery (you should subscribe, honest) also points out that a Trump repeal of Obamacare would make it harder for people to have their own health insurance, and so stymie the “gig economy” and entrepreneurship. Meanwhile, Trump’s policy is to allow money held overseas to be repatriated cheaply, and to lower taxes on companies.
link to this extract


DDOS attack halts heating in Finland’s winter • Metropolitan.fi

»

Both of the buildings where managed by Valtia. The company who is in charge of managing the buildings overall operation and maintenance. According to Valtia CEO, Simo Rounela, in both cases the systems that controlled the central heating and warm water circulation were temporarily disabled.

In the city of Lappeenranta, there were at least two buildings whose systems were knocked down by the network attack. In a DDoS attack the network is overloaded by traffic from multiple locations with the aim of causing the system to fail.

In an interview with Etelä-Saimaa, Rounela estimated the attack in Eastern Finland lasted from late October to Thursday the 3rd of November. The systems that were attacked tried to respond to the attack by rebooting the main control circuit. This was repeated over and over so that heating was never working.

At this time of the year temperatures in Finland are below freezing and a long-term disruption in heat will cause both material damage as well as the need to relocate residents elsewhere. Thankfully in this case the fix was easy to do by limiting network traffic.

«

Otherwise, they’d have had no heating/hot water until it thawed in spring/summer.
link to this extract


Trump, Twitter, and the failed American experiment • The Currency Paradox

James King:

»

In a real sense, Twitter is rigged. I watched as technologies and algorithms were changed to systematically decrease my reach and influence. I was walled off into my own corner by those who perceived themselves my betters. Neither the accuracy of my observations nor resilience of my concepts mattered, I simply was not one of the popular kids. No amount of truth could change that.

So I find myself on the eve of the presidency of a fascist. It doesn’t surprise me how we got here. We got here because we stopped believing in truth and started believing in systems. Twitter is one such system. We don’t care if the systems are rigged or broken. But no one else seems to understand that the act of rigging a system invalidates it. A broken thing will eventually collapse.

The advantage of a fanatic or demagogue is their ideological purity. They exist in a world in which their beliefs are truth and therefore unassailable. What they do not understand is that there is indeed objective truth, optimal forms of reason and existence that will eventually undermine and destroy any belief that doesn’t adhere to them.

We are likely on the cusp of the failure of the experiment called the United States of America. It is a system that was built on hypocrisy and the blood and exploitation of innocents. Its religion is Capitalism. Much like Twitter, it has been a comforting notion. And, like Twitter, it has failed to fulfill its promise for the majority of people. Re-read my description of my Twitter experience. You may notice how well it parallels the experience of many in this country.

«

link to this extract


News in the age of now • Nieman Reports

Nick Carr:

»

Unlike the printed page, the Web never encourages us to slow down. And the more we practice this hurried, distracted mode of information gathering, the more deeply it becomes ingrained in our mental habits—in the very ways our neurons connect. At the same time, we begin to lose our ability to sustain our attention, to think or read about one thing for more than a few moments. A Stanford University study published last year showed that people who engage in a lot of media multitasking not only sacrifice their capacity for concentration but also become less able to distinguish important information from unimportant information. They become “suckers for irrelevancy,” as one of the researchers, Clifford Nass, put it. Everything starts to blur together.

On the Web, skimming is no longer a means to an end but an end in itself. That poses a huge problem for those who report and publish the news. To appreciate variations in the quality of journalism, a person has to be attentive, to be able to read and think deeply. To the skimmer, all stories look the same and are worth the same. The news becomes a fungible commodity, and the lowest-cost provider wins the day. The news organization committed to quality becomes a niche player, fated to watch its niche continue to shrink.

The fervor of nowness displaces the thoughtfulness of ripeness.

«

link to this extract


Trump can’t stop the energy revolution • Bloomberg Gadfly

Chris Bryant:

»

President-elect Donald Trump thinks man-made climate change is a hoax and he’s promised to revive the US coal industry by cutting regulation. So renewables are dead in the water, right? Maybe not.

President Trump can’t tell producers which power generation technologies to buy. That decision will come down to cost in the end. Right now coal’s losing that battle, while renewables are gaining.

Trump will doubtless try to undermine the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), which obliges states to cut fossil power carbon emissions. That would probably keep more coal plants open for longer. But, try as he might, Trump can’t will the coal industry back to health. It will still struggle to compete with cheap natural gas, as Gadfly colleague Liam Denning explained here.Even without the CPP, about 60 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity will probably be retired by 2030. On the same basis, renewable capacity would still be expected to grow more than 4% a year until 2040, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, meaning they’d have a 23% share of generation.

«

Technological progress doesn’t care who’s elected. Nor does money.
link to this extract


Who’s better at phishing Twitter, me or artificial intelligence? • Forbes

Thomas Fox-Brewster thought he could easily beat an AI (SNAP_R) when it came to tempting people to click on links on Twitter:

»

I shouldn’t have been so smug. Two days later the results were in. When it came to social engineering, the data showed I’m not of the same calibre as AI. Not only were the SNAP_R bots able to send out far more tweets – obviously computers are quicker than humans when it comes to such rote operations – but they had a greater conversion rate. SNAP_R sent simulated spear-phishing tweets to 819 users at a rate of 6.75 tweets per minute, reeling in 275 victims.

Me? I managed a puny 129 attempts at 1.075 tweets a minute with 49 total click-throughs. I lost by 226. A shattering loss, the second to AI in a matter of days, having been thoroughly pounded by a machine Smash Bros. player in the same week.

As much as it’s useful warning people to be careful with what they click, SNAP_R is more than that; it’s a harbinger of Twitter doom. The prospect of armies of phisher bots that appear human is worrisome. Will any user be able to tell the difference between humans and AI? Will Twitter’s security staff? Given SNAP_R was so successful in its first test against a human, I’m doubtful.

«

Guaranteed that criminals have figured this out already.
link to this extract


Explaining nationalist political views: the case of Donald Trump • SSRN papers

Jonathan Rothwell and Pablo Diego-Rosell of the pollsters Gallup:

»

Using detailed Gallup survey data for 125,000 American adults, we analyze the individual and geographic factors that predict a higher probability of viewing Trump favorably. The results show mixed evidence that economic distress has motivated Trump support. His supporters are less educated and more likely to work in blue collar occupations, but they earn relatively high household incomes and are no less likely to be unemployed or exposed to competition through trade or immigration. On the other hand, living in racially isolated communities with worse health outcomes, lower social mobility, less social capital, greater reliance on social security income and less reliance on capital income, predicts higher levels of Trump support.

«

link to this extract


IPhone 7 and 7 boost iOS share in US • Kantar Comtech

»

“In Great Britain, the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus were top-sellers during the month of September, accounting for 15.1% of sales,” said Dominic Sunnebo, Business Unit Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe. “In the third quarter of 2016, iOS accounted for 40.6% of smartphone sales, a 2.4 percentage point increase from the same period a year ago. It’s interesting to note the continued success of the iPhone SE in Britain, accounting for 8.5% of sales in the quarter vs. a share of just 3.5% in the US.”

“Britain is the only market where Samsung made year-on-year gains, totaling 30.4% of smartphone sales,” Sunnebo added. “In Italy, Huawei replaced Samsung as the reigning smartphone leader to become the top brand sold at 27.3%, a 15.2 percentage point gain vs. the third quarter 2015. Samsung accounted for 24.7% of smartphone sales in Italy, a decline from 40.6%. In Spain, Huawei and Samsung are now neck-and-neck, with Samsung edging out Huawei 24.2% vs. 23.3%.”

«

Amazing: Apple plus Samsung equals over 70% of sales in September. Note Huawei, though, which is coming to eat Samsung’s lunch (and quite possibly some of Apple’s dessert).
link to this extract


Inside the loss Clinton saw coming • Politico

Benjamin Oreskes:

»

Democrats and many others are now in crisis, wrapping their minds around the reality of a President Donald Trump. But the crisis is sharpest in Clinton campaign headquarters: not only do they feel like everything is about to go deeply, collapse-of-America wrong, but it’s going to happen because she failed, and they failed her.

Clinton and her operatives went into the race predicting her biggest problems would be inevitability and her age, trying to succeed a two-term president of her own party. But the mood of the country surprised them. They recognized that Sanders and Trump had correctly defined the problem—addressing anger about a rigged economy and government—and that Clinton already never authentically could. Worse still, her continuing email saga and extended revelations about the Clinton Foundation connections made any anti-establishment strategy completely impossible.

So instead of answering the question of how Clinton represented change, they tried to change the question to temperament, what kind of change people wanted, what kind of America they wanted to live in. It wasn’t enough.

«

link to this extract


Election Alphaville: the mood at Web Summit • Financial Times

Izabella Kaminska:

»

In fact, before the [onstage] interview — when I asked [Cisco chairman John] Chambers [who calls himself a moderate Republican but voted for Clinton and her “digital strategy”] about how his disruptive vision would be received by those likely to be left behind — he had urged me not to dwell on the “negatives” because that’s not what the crowds wanted to hear.

It was at this point I realised that what I was witnessing at the Web Summit was the manifestation of the biggest and most self-deluding feedback loop of all time.

The crowd had its own preconceived notion about how great disruption was, about how important being “agile” is, and why the downsides of the tech revolution just don’t matter. They didn’t want to hear anything else. They saw themselves as representing the innovative and disruptive future, whilst those moaning about the social disruption associated with the tech revolution represent the luddite past.

What they perhaps didn’t realise is that the division doesn’t necessarily represent a simple clash between futurist progressives and technophobic regressives. More likely, it represents a clash between the bubble elite — the increasingly concentrated beneficiaries of the tech revolution — and everyone else, who they just don’t care for.

Web Summit is a bubble. And the people in that bubble have no idea they’re in a bubble (even though they’re repeatedly going around saying the exact same thing to each other as if in a trance). With the US election playing out in Donald Trump’s favour, there’s a good chance those inhabiting that bubble may finally be forced out of it.

«

link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: vote counting, Android malvertising, Theranos sued, Skype hacks, see USB-C grow!, and more


Lucky you! Ads are coming to Messenger bots. Photo by portalgda on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Happy don’t-have-to-think-about-US-elections-for-four-years-or-so day. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Alphabet taps brakes on drone project, nixing Starbucks partnership • Bloomberg

Mark Bergen:

»

The latest Google drones have just started taking flight in the real world. But the team behind the technology is slowing down, trimming headcount and shelving initiatives as the experimental unit becomes the latest target of tightening budgets across parent company Alphabet Inc. 

Project Wing, a unit of Alphabet’s X research lab, nixed a partnership with coffee giant Starbucks Corp., according to people familiar with the decision. Following the departure of project leader Dave Vos in October, the unit also froze hiring and began asking some staff to seek jobs elsewhere in the company, according to some of those people. They asked not to be identified speaking about private company moves. 

The decisions are part of a broader Alphabet effort to rein in spending and try to turn more experimental projects from loss-making risky bets into real businesses. Drones are in a particularly knotty place. US federal regulation does not yet allow for delivery, except in select test zones. However, Alphabet’s deceleration comes as other technology companies, including Amazon.com Inc., plough money into drone delivery.

«

The Wall Street Journal says that the top two Wing execs were “pushed out”, “in large part because of conflict between the group’s engineers and its commercial team”.

Boston Dynamics, Google Glass, Google Fiber – what’s the betting the next one to get a spending cut will be Project Loon, the internet-balloons-for-developing-countries scheme?

(Benedict Evans reckons the cuts are because Google is going all-in on machine learning. It would make sense.)
link to this extract


Why Twitter must be saved • Stratechery

Ben Thompson:

»

When information was scarce, limiting speech was a real danger; when information is abundant shielding people from speech they might disagree with has its own perverse effects.

To be clear, Twitter has a real abuse problem that it has been derelict in addressing, a decision that is costly in both human and business terms; there is real harm that comes from the ability to address anyone anonymously, including the suppression of viewpoints by de facto vigilantism. But I increasingly despair about the opposite extreme: the construction of cocoons where speech that intrudes on one’s world view with facts is suppressed for fear of what it does to the bottom line, resulting in an inert people incapable of finding common ground with anyone else.

This is why Twitter must be saved: the combination of network and format is irreplaceable, especially now that everyone knows it might not be a great business. For all the good that the Washington Post has done it is but one publication among many; the place where those publications disseminate information is the true scale, but Facebook has made its priorities clear: engagement and dollars, leavened with the certainty that engineers can make it all better; the externalities that result from a focus on making people feel good are not their concern.

«

The panel which I moderated on Tuesday at Web Summit felt that Facebook in particular should act to steer away from the model where it simply monetises attention without any regard to verity or effects.
link to this extract


Demand for USB Type-C to pick up with more notebook adoption, says paper • Digitimes

Joseph Tsai:

»

Market watchers expect Apple’s decision to fully adopt USB Type-C connectors for its new MacBook Pros to accelerate other notebook vendors’ adoption of USB Type-C technology in their products which should benefit connector makers including BizLink Holding, Good Way Technology and Foxlink, according to a Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN) report.

Tom Huang, Investor Relation Manager, BizLink said that mobile device I/O ports will become fewer and fewer and docking station-type of products will become more popular. BizLink has been cooperating with clients to develop USB Type C-related applications and these businesses are expected to become growth drivers for the company, the paper noted.

«

Gotta love those market watchers.
link to this extract


Why are Skype accounts getting hacked so easily? • The Verge

Tom Warren:

»

If you’ve received a weird message on Skype with a link to Baidu or LinkedIn recently, you’re not alone. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve received spam links to Baidu from six of my Skype contacts, one of whom works for Microsoft’s PR agency and another is a former Microsoft employee. All were surprised to see their accounts breached, and some believed they were protected by Microsoft’s two-factor authentication. That wasn’t the case, though.

A thread on Microsoft’s Skype support forums reveals this has been occurring to hundreds of Skype users since at least August. Breached Skype accounts are used to send thousands of spam messages before they’re locked and the owners have to regain access. Skype has fallen victim to similar attacks before, and hackers were able to spoof messages on the system last year after using lists of stolen usernames and passwords to gain access to accounts.

«

So why isn’t two-factor authentication working?

»

Skype users might think they’re protected by Microsoft’s two-factor security, when in reality they’re probably not. Microsoft offers the ability to link a Skype and Microsoft Account together to make sign-in and security easier. If you already enabled this months ago, it turns out that Microsoft has kept your original Skype account password separate so that it can still be used to access the service with a Skype username. If that password isn’t secure or you used it elsewhere then hackers can use it to gain access to Skype, bypassing any two-factor authentication provided by Microsoft.

«

link to this extract


Google stops AdSense attack that forced banking trojan on Android phones • Ars Technica

Dan Goodin:

»

Google has shut down an operation that combined malicious AdSense advertisements with a zero-day attack exploiting Chrome for Android to force devices to download banking fraud malware.

Over a two-month span, the campaign downloaded the Banker.AndroidOS.Svpeng banking trojan on about 318,000 devices monitored by Kaspersky Lab, researchers from the Moscow-based anti-malware provider reported in a blog post published Monday. While the malicious installation files weren’t automatically executed, they carried names such as last-browser-update.apk and WhatsApp.apk that were designed to trick targets into manually installing them. Kaspersky privately reported the scam to Google, and engineers from the search company put an end to the campaign, although the timing of those two events wasn’t immediately clear.

“So far, those behind Svpeng have limited their attacks to smartphone users in Russia,” Kaspersky Lab researchers Nikita Buchka and Anton Kivva wrote in Monday’s post. “However, next time they push their ‘adverts’ on AdSense they may well choose to attack users in other countries; we have seen similar cases in the past. After all, what could be more convenient than exploiting the most popular advertising platform to download their malicious creations to hundreds of thousands of mobile devices?”

«

Only works on Google Chrome for Android; exploits AdSense; exploits Android. Quite the trifecta. (Exploits like this, of course, are part of the externality cost of advertising on users, besides attention and bandwidth.)
link to this extract


With Theranos lawsuit, Walgreens hoping to squeeze single drop of blood from stone • Dealbreaker

Owen Davis:

»

When it comes to entries in the it-couldn’t-possibly-get-any-worse department, Theranos has become a true standout. So it’s a bit of a bummer that the latest turn of events for the embattled blood testing startup occurred late on election day, when most eyes are trained elsewhere.

As intrepid WSJ reporter John Carreyrou reports, via Twitter, Walgreens has filed a $140m lawsuit against Theranos. It’s not the first lawsuit to follow revelations that the company’s once-vaunted technology – which promised to test for a wide array of ailments using a single drop of blood – may have been a giant sham all along. A hedge fund investor got that ball rolling last month.

«

Put it on the gravestone.
link to this extract


Here’s Facebook’s plan to get you chatting with Messenger business bots • Buzzfeed News

Alex Kantrowitz:

»

The first tweak is a simple one: News Feed advertisements designed to engage you in conversation with a chat bot. Let’s say H&M is touting a new line of winter coats in a Facebook ad campaign. Instead of directing people interested in the coats to H&M’s website or the H&M app, these ads would put them in conversation with Messenger’s H&M chat bot, which could answer questions about the coats and potentially orchestrate an in-app sale. These ads roll out globally today.

Facebook’s second tweak, sponsored messages, also rolls out globally today. These are exactly what they say on the tin: branded in-Messenger messages sent to Messenger users by advertisers they’ve interacted with in the past. Together with bot-integrated News Feed ads, these new products offer developers opportunities to more proactively engage people on Facebook.

“We now have the ability to drive massive traffic to bots through News Feed,” Facebook Messenger head David Marcus told BuzzFeed News, “and that’s great for developers.” Marcus noted that these new products have worked well in test runs. Absolut Vodka, for example, recently used a bot-integrated News Feed ad as part of a vodka giveaway campaign. Marcus said the company found that acceptance rates on Messenger were three times what they were on the mobile web.

«

Sounds delightful. Also, don’t worry – rather like banner ads, I’d wager the “acceptance rate” will fall fairly quickly as they become ubiquitous and people weary of them.
link to this extract


Decision 2016: counting the vote • Associated Press

Lauren Easton spoke to Don Rehill, who is in charge of the AP’s collection of voting data:

»

We’ll be tabulating almost 5,000 contested races from over 4,600 reporting units in 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. The states and counties that do provide unofficial results do so in myriad formats and in a variety of ways. Our reporting is based on a spectrum of reporting modes, from an AP stringer at a town election official’s office calling our vote entry center with results given to him on a printout; to a county election official faxing or emailing us a tally receipt from their optical scanner; to folks at one of our centers manually gathering results from a county website; to a secretary of state elections office sending us XML documents with the most recent updates in all of their counties. Even within a state, we often get results on different media, and in different formats, because of differences in the counties’ election equipment, their procedures or their budgets.

As developers and folks involved in compiling election data like to say, there is no “common data format.” At AP we essentially take this crazy quilt of formats and we create our own common data format to process it. Then we run it through our quality control checks, and format and disseminate the results in a variety of ways to our thousands of newspaper, broadcast and digital members and customers.

«

You don’t see Google or Facebook hurrying to take that over.
link to this extract


Google says it is now OK to put content behind tabs • Search Engine Journal

Matt Southern:

»

It sounds like that [exchange on Twitter, mentioned in the story] means we can disregard the knowledge previously thought to be true when Google’s John Mueller stated crawlers may “actively ignore” content that is “hidden”:

»“From our point of view, it’s always a tricky problem when we send a user to a page where we know this content is actually hidden. Because the user will see perhaps the content in the snippet, they’ll click through the page, and say, well, I don’t see where this information is on this page. I feel kind of almost misled to click on this to actually get in there. So that’s…the problem that we’re seeing. …we’ve gone a little bit further now to actively ignore the information that’s not directly visible. So if you want that content really indexed, I’d make sure it’s visible for the users when they go to that page.”«

So, there you have it. Time to update your technical audits, checklists, and so on. Click-to-expand content, and content hidden behind tabs, are not negative SEO factors anymore.

«

This doesn’t feel like good news. Does this feel like good news to you? I envisage lots more having to click things to make them go away.
link to this extract


Boffins turn phone into GPS tracker by abusing pairing with – that’s right – IoT kit • The Register

John Leyden:

»

Black Hat EU Security researchers have worked out how to hack into a smartphone and turn it into a tracking device by abusing its pairing with a Belkin home automation device.

Joe Tanen and Scott Tenaglia of Invincea Labs were able to root a WeMo device before injecting code into the WeMo Android app from a compromised WeMo device. The attack, which involved using an IoT device to hack into a phone, involved abusing normal functionality in order to exploit the app, the researchers explained during a presentation at Black Hat Europe on Friday.

Vulnerabilities in both the device and the Android app can be abused to obtain a root shell on the device, before running arbitrary code on the phone paired with it. The same approach might be used to crash the device, and launch DoS attacks without rooting it.

“We were able to turn your phone into a GPS tracker because your IoT kit is kinda insecure,” Tenaglia explained.

The talk – entitled Breaking BHAD: Abusing Belkin Home Automation Devices – also covered details of heap overflow, SQL injection, and code injection zero days, as well as their associated exploits. These various flaws were resolved by a recent update from Belkin.

«

link to this extract


Apple picked up talent, tech from defunct music startup Omnifone in August • Techcrunch

Ingrid Lunden:

»

As the race continues to pick up more subscribers for streaming music services, TechCrunch has learned that one of the most prominent players in the field quietly picked up some talent and tech to advance its position. Apple hired at least 16 employees and purchased select technology from Omnifone, an early player in streaming music services that filed for bankruptcy this summer.

The news emerged as Omnifone’s original founder, Rob Lewis (who was no longer with Omnifone in its final years), prepares for his latest streaming music venture, Electric Jukebox, to launch its first product this week: a music player that plugs into your TV, and a controller that looks a little like a microphone.

«

Do we think Rob is soon going to be hoping to be acquihired? But this is early consolidation. The list of streaming music services that have gone bust is already quite long.
link to this extract


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.

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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.

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. 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:

»

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.

«

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:

»

[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.

«

“Samsung tests button” may be my new favourite headline fragment. That delay, though, will hit Q1 sales.
link to this extract


New Apple MacBooks: are you not entertained? • Forbes

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

»

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.

«

link to this extract


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

Ben Terris:

»

“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.

«

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:

»

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.

«

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:

»

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?”

«

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:

»

“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.”

«

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):

»

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”.

«

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).
link to this extract


I have lived the USB-C #donglelife. Here’s what you’re in for • The Verge

Dieter Bohn:

»

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.

«

BURN THE HERETIC!
link to this extract


WikiLeaks isn’t whistleblowing • The New York Times

Zeynep Tufekci:

»

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.

«

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:

»

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.

«

But, he also points out, it needs to update the Mac Pro urgently.
link to this extract


Scriptarian – Scripting Studio for macOS

»

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

«

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

Start up: Assistants Assemble!, disruption forecasts, the fragile US, Magic Leap exec jumps ship, and more


Samsung is doing a remake of its fairly successful total recall, this time with washing machines. Photo by nan palmero on Flickr.


I’ll be at Web Summit, the Glastonbury of Tech (except it’s in Lisbon, Portugal) on Tuesday and Wednesday. I hope that won’t interfere with The Overspill. If you’re there and would like to meet, I’m always on Twitter.


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. Sufficient unto the day. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Who will win the next big thing? • Naofumi Kagami

»from a historical standpoint, if AI or VR/AR succeeds in disrupting tech, it is actually very unlikely that Google, Microsoft of Facebook would win in the end. These companies are in the exact same positions regarding AI and VR/AR as were Blackberry and Palm prior to iPhone, or as were Yahoo, Lycos and others were prior to Google Search. They have invested heavily into research and also into developing the early market. However, they have not yet discovered the formula that would propel them into the mass market.

No matter how unlikely it may seem today, history is actually quite unequivocal on this. The large and established companies that pioneer an early market, do not reap the rewards when disruption happens and the market goes mainstream. The odds are against Google for winning in AI, and the odds are against Microsoft and Facebook for winning in AR/VR (assuming though that AI and AR/VR do end up being disruptive technologies and not simply sustaining).

Although it is almost impossible to predict what will happen, I will just end this post highlighting a couple scenarios under which the Google might find itself vulnerable for illustrative purposes only.

«

The scenarios are interesting – you’ll probably be able to think of more. The second he suggests is a low-end disruption. But Google was an orthogonal disruption to Microsoft (and Apple); it built on something they enabled, but then challenged them.

The point though that Annexers do less well than Late Natives is relevant.
link to this extract


America is more fragile than you think: a Marine Corps officer on why voters must defeat Donald Trump • Quartz

Jake Cusack:

»Scroll through the constellation of fear mongering sites that orbit conservative media and try to recognize the America you know in those stories. It makes sense that Trump supporters can believe so wholeheartedly that the country is on the verge of collapse.

In the context of this fear, particularly for many who served in the military, measured tones and caution seem like political double-speak and cowardice. They know there is a real enemy. IEDs do not kill in shades of grey. They have seen their friends die to take cities they now see filled with black flags on CNN.

These and other concerns with legitimate roots turn some of my friends and family towards Trump’s aggressive stance and anti-establishment voice, even as they are fully cognizant of his massive personal flaws.

But what they don’t see is how tenuous it all is. I’ve spent my life since Iraq in and out of conflict zones and fragile states. I’ve seen educated, wealthy communities descend overnight into ethnic cleansing. I’ve seen family men turned into butchers. I’ve seen a charismatic reformed warlord, surrounded by capable technical advisors, steer his country irretrievably into the abyss.

I was traveling across Mali, Cote d’Ivoire, and Sierra Leone when Trump escalated his comments suggesting that he’d try to put Hillary Clinton in jail and doubled down on his assertion of “rigged elections.” People there knew exactly what he meant, because they have heard that rhetoric before. This is the language of lands without strong institutions, bereft of the mutual trust that glues our democracy together. It’s the language of civil wars.

«

Here’s my limited take. The US is reaping the whirlwind of a social and taxation system which insists that there’s no benefit in helping everyone; where health care isn’t a public benefit, but a private burden; that being rich makes you better than someone who is poor; having a vote seems to make no difference; and anyone can own a gun. Pull on that thread.
link to this extract


Siri vs. Google Assistant vs. Alexa vs. Cortana: Which AI is best? • Business Insider

Jeff Dunn puts them through a ton of tests in which each does OK-ish, and concludes:

»If the hodgepodge of results above didn’t make it clear, none of these things are at a place I could comfortably call “good.” There is a ton of work to be done.

The problems here are large and sweeping:

• Each assistant still feels like a fragile, thinly veiled web of loosely connected services — because that’s what they are. It’s almost impossible to tell when one of them won’t be able to do the thing you asked.

• You have to be OK giving up your location and loads of personal data to get the most out of them.

• There are numerous instances where using a web browser is simply faster for doing fundamental tasks. There is a reason most people use their Echo for the simplest of functions — it’s not worth slowing down your workflow to do anything else.

• Each one is still wildly finicky when it comes to phrasing. They all think too much in black and white; one misplaced or forgotten word is often enough to discard an entire request.

• It’s incredibly uncomfortable to speak to an inanimate thing in public.

• In Google Assistant’s case, normalizing the need to call on a brand (“OK Google”) whenever you need a hand is Orwellian.

«

link to this extract


Top 10 enduring web-design mistakes • Nielsen Norman Group

Amy Schade, Yunnuo Cheng, and Samyukta Sherugar:

»Since 1996, we have been compiling lists of the top 10 mistakes in web design. This year, we completed a large-scale usability study with 215 participants in the United States and United Kingdom to see what today’s web-design mistakes are. After analyzing results across 43 sites that ranged from small, local businesses to entertainment sites to nonprofits to global organizations, we identified 10 of the most common and most damaging web-design mistakes that hurt our users. (And by hurting their users, these design flaws most definitely also hurt the websites’ business metrics.)

The big news? None of the top issues today is new or surprising. Web design has come a long way. But these persistent problems remain. Modern design patterns and aesthetics change, but underlying user needs remain the same. Users still need to find information, be able to read it, and know what to click and where it leads.

«

It is worth looking at the examples and trying to think of your own (or even trying your own site). It is scary how long some faults can last.
link to this extract


Is Facebook secretly building a phone? • CNet

Sean Hollister:

»Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg… hired Regina Dugan to lead Building 8. Dugan is the former head of both the US Department of Defense’s DARPA research arm, and Google’s Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP) research lab.

Zuckerberg suggested, in an April 2016 blog post, that Building 8 would pursue “augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, connectivity and other important areas” — which sounds pretty sciencey, to be sure.

But the division’s job postings and recent hires tell a slightly different story – beginning with the Building 8 mission statement you’ll find at the top of each job post.

Here’s the mission statement in full:

»Building 8 brings together world-class experts to develop and ship groundbreaking products at the intersection of hardware, software, and content. We have a clear mandate to ship products at scale. In particular, seemingly impossible products that define new categories that advance Facebook’s mission of connecting the world. The B8 team will apply DARPA-style breakthrough development at the intersection of ambitious science and product development. It will operate on aggressive, fixed timelines, with extensive use of partnerships in universities, small and large businesses.«

Building 8 is all about shipping hardware, it seems. And could “seemingly impossible products” include an ambitious modular phone like Ara?

«

You misspelt “a stupid modular phone like Ara”. Not clear why Facebook has chosen to duplicate the not-yet-successful Google X – or perhaps it has better focus.
link to this extract


Galaxy Note7 update • Samsung US

Samsung Newsroom:

»As of today, nearly 85% of all recalled Galaxy Note7 devices have been replaced through the U.S. Note7 Refund and Exchange Program, with the majority of the participants opting to receive another Samsung smartphone.

We remain focused on collecting the outstanding Galaxy Note7 phones in the market. To further drive participation, we will be releasing a software update in the coming days that will limit the phone’s ability to charge beyond 60%, as well as issue a reminder pop-up notification every time a consumer charges, reboots or turns on the screen of their Note7 device.

«

I can see a future strand of fiction which starts “I’d been on the run now with my Note7 for fifteen years, and it was beginning to take its toll.”
link to this extract


Why Apple’s adaptive Touch Bar will flop • The Register

Andrew Orlowski:

»Last week Apple replaced physical hardware function keys on its new laptops with a touch sensitive OLED strip, the “Touch Bar”. This isn’t an original idea, and it has failed spectacularly when introduced to the market.

Just two years ago Lenovo tried this with its second generation Yoga. Users hated it, and the change wasn’t repeated for 2015.

“We’d been having the same thoughts,” senior technologist at Lenovo Graham Thomas told us. “People use those function keys for different things or not at all.” The Optimus OLED keyboard made a big splash, introducing adaptive concept in 2006… then didn’t appear for two years. Apple had actually filed for a patent for 2007.

However, the feedback from users was negative. The tech seemed flaky. Lenovo restored the traditional physical Fn keys for the third generation of Yoga (we’ll have a review shortly).

«

Two key differences: first, Lenovo can’t decide what APIs are included in Windows, so its keyboard couldn’t truly extend the experience of Windows; second, Apple has a particularly loyal and eager customer group. Let’s see what the response is when people actually have these new machines in their hands.
link to this extract


The RCS Mirage: “Advanced Messaging” is a mess in the US, and Google’s “standard” is just one more • Android Police

David Ruddock:

»And so we have competing strategies. Google would prefer everyone just support its RCS client, based on the GSMA’s universal profile, and allow users on any carrier to utilize its features, and carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile would rather see the development of a negotiated “universal profile” that allows cross-compatibility of core features, but not necessarily for all features, just the ones the carriers can agree are important enough to need, but not that they’d maybe like to keep to themselves as “value-add” incentives for their subscribers to stay on the network. So, you could (and likely will) end up with a basic, universal RCS profile, but there’s a very real possibility that business interests will gimp that universal profile with a more limited feature set. And let’s not forget: the US’s largest smartphone manufacturer by sales, Apple, has absolutely no reason to adopt RCS ever.

«

As one commenter points out, it’s like the XKCD cartoon about standards:
link to this extract


Computer forensics defuses FBI’s Clinton email ‘bombshell’ – the math doesn’t add up • The Register

Duncan Campbell (who knows one end of a spy agency from another):

»Comey’s letter to Congressional leaders, which started the whole debacle, explained that the agency could not officially look at or report on the emails without obtaining a specific new warrant. The letter implicitly acknowledged that the agency already had copies of all the mails on its computer systems (which would normally automatically have been indexed by forensic software), bringing the Clinton connection to light.

To find out how many emails on the laptop were relevant would have taken “seconds”, according to e-discovery software industry experts. To then find out how many of those – if any – the FBI had not seen in its previous investigation would, at most, have taken “minutes.” Standard methods are to take and match cryptographic hashes of email files (which proves the email files identical, if the hashes match), or to match metadata and then textual content.

The FBI’s previous, year-long investigation into the private Clinton server finished in July, when director James B Comey reported that: “We cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges.”

As only 110 of 30,490 official emails previously examined by the FBI were found to contain classified government information, the number of previously unseen mails that had strayed onto Weiner’s laptop is likely to range from zero to a few tens.

«

link to this extract


Secretive startup Magic Leap loses top marketing executive • Bloomberg

Mark Bergen:

»Magic Leap Inc., a secretive augmented reality startup with a massive funding warchest, lost its top marketing executive before the company has even brought its first product to market.

Brian Wallace, a veteran smartphone executive with previous stints at BlackBerry Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co. and Google, left Magic Leap in October, the company confirmed. The startup made waves when it brought Wallace on in April 2014, after closing a $50 million venture capital round.

Since then, Magic Leap has raised more than $1.3 billion in additional capital from tech giants such as Qualcomm Ventures, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. The latest investment round, in February, valued the company at $4.5 billion.

“I did what I set out to do, which was help Rony and the team create one of the most hotly anticipated technology companies in years,” Wallace said in an interview, referring to Chief Executive Officer Rony Abovitz. “At this stage though, it’s time for me to move on to other opportunities.”

«

Magic Leap is either going to be the most incredible thing ever, or quite blah compared to all the other stuff already out there. I lean towards the latter.
link to this extract


Samsung recalling almost 2.8m washers due to impact injuries • NBC News

Lucy Bayly:

»Samsung has one more fire to put out: The South Korean company announced on Friday that it was recalling 2.8m top-load washing machines, following reports of “impact injuries” that included a broken jaw.

The problem stems from unbalanced drums, which can separate from the washer and generate enough internal force to cause other parts of the washer to detach — and, in some cases, be launched out of the machine.

Samsung is also the subject of an August lawsuit from owners who said their machines “explode during normal use.”

«

Only seems to be the US – but the machines have been sold in other countries too.
link to this extract


Huawei wants to beat Apple in smartphones in two years: chief exec • Reuters

Harro ten Wolde:

»”When we announced four years ago that we wanted to sell phones, people told us we were crazy. When we said we wanted to sell 100 million phones, they told us we were crazy,” [chief executive of Huawei’s consumer business group Richard] Yu said at a launch event in Munich.

Huawei on Thursday launched a new premium phone, which will sell for €699 apiece. A version developed with Porsche Design will cost €1,395.

The phone has a new artificial intelligence feature: it can learn about its user’s habits and automatically put the most frequently used apps in easy reach.

Huawei was the world’s third-largest smartphone maker in the third quarter with 33.6 million shipped devices, giving it a 9% market share, according to research firm Strategy Analytics.

Apple was still well ahead with 45.5 million devices, or a 12% market share. Samsung was the world leader with 75.3 million shipped devices and a market share of 20.1 percent.

“We are going to take them (Apple) step-by-step, innovation-by-innovation,” Yu said, adding that he expected to improve Huawei’s position along with technology shifts.

“There will be more opportunities. Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality,” he said. “It is like driving a car. At every curve or turn, there is an opportunity to overtake the competition.”

«

Is it going to take customers from Apple, though, or from Samsung and other Android OEMs?
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: Google’s endless EC case, here comes USB-C, mobo no go, South Korea’s weird scandal, and more


Voice control is going to be the next big thing in the home, it seems. Photo by SBIngram 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.

Improving quality isn’t anti-competitive, part II • Google Public Policy blog

Kent Walker, Google’s general counsel:

»

we disagree with the European Commission’s argument that our improved Google Shopping results are harming competition. As we said last year in our response to the Commission’s original Statement of Objections (SO), we believe these claims are wrong as a matter of fact, law, and economics.

The Commission’s original SO drew such a narrow definition around online shopping services that it even excluded services like Amazon. It claimed that when we offered improved shopping ads to our users and advertisers, we were “favouring” our own services — and that this was bad for a handful of price comparison aggregators who claimed to have lost clicks from Google. But it failed to take into account the competitive significance of companies like Amazon and the broader dynamics of online shopping.

Our response demonstrated that online shopping is robustly competitive, with lots of evidence supporting the common-sense conclusion that Google and many other websites are chasing Amazon, by far the largest player on the field.

«

This is getting really very boring now. Foundem, the British company that was the original complainant to the EC, demolished Google’s response in its rebuttal analysis in June 2015. It’s very clear. Nothing has changed since then except that Google has grabbed more of the online advertising business. (Just to start you off: Google talks about “shopping” but the EC’s Statement of Objections is about “price comparison”. Because misdirection works.)

Could the EC just get on and determine its response now? This really has dragged on long enough.
link to this extract


Asustek, Gigabyte pushing their presence in motherboard market • Digitimes

Monica Chen and Joseph Tsai:

»

Currently, Asustek and Gigabyte together contribute over half of worldwide motherboard shipments and also have a major share in the mid-range to high-end motherboard sector.

In 2016, Gigabyte is expected to ship 16.1-16.5m motherboards, down from 2015’s 17m units. However, the company’s strong shipments in its high-end Z170-based and G1 series motherboards will still increase the company’s overall ASP. The company’s EPS is also expected to grow by more than NT$3.30 (US$0.10) and reach NT$4 in 2016.

Asustek is expected to ship 17-17.5m motherboards in 2016, but the company is also expected to achieve growths in both revenues and profits.

«

So that means worldwide motherboard shipments annually are about 68m, and falling in line with PC shipments. Please could nobody ever tell me that PC shipments are down because “people are making their own”.
link to this extract


Stephen Baker’s top holiday 2016 expectations • NPD

This is for the US:

»

PC holiday revenues revived – Sales will be the best in at least four years, as average sales prices rise

iPad Pros deliver big – Expect revenue increases for Apple tablets, while Android consumer interest wanes

Smartphone sales soar – New iPhones will exceed market expectations and drive the best smartphone market in years

Cutting the (headphone) cord continues – wireless headphones will be on many holiday shopping lists this year

Online sales will not falter – online revenue will account for as much as 33% of consumer electronics holiday sales

«

And quite a few more.
link to this extract


The missing storytelling • Medium

Nati Shochat, in May, on the lack of storytelling in Apple’s presentations these days:

»

explanations are limited and rare these days. The 2015 Macbook’s one USB-C port didn’t get the same explanatory time or effort that Jobs gave the Macbook Air upon its dramatic unveiling in 2008, when he took the time to explain why the new ultra-thin laptop didn’t have a CD/DVD drive. Schiller only referred vaguely to the reason — which is to push the Mac line even further — when asked directly by John Gruber during a one to one session, shortly after the WWDC 2015 event.

In the last year the lack of ‘Why’, stood out even more, as Apple’s new line of accessories took some “strange” design cues. Whether the ability to charge the Apple Pencil via sticking it to the iPad Pro’s lightning port (which is odd but strikingly convenient), or the need to flip over the Magic Mouse 2 — which looks like a dead mouse — in order to charge it, or the new iPhone Smart Battery Case with the hump. None of these products got the explanations behind the design rationale, that avid Apple users got used to in the last decade.

One might ask: if Jobs moulded Apple in his image, why the storytelling hasn’t stuck in the current communications and marketing?

«

This is exactly right. When Tim Cook introduced the new Apple TV, there wasn’t a story around how “TV is going to apps”. Why not? It could have made a huge difference to the presentation of those new MacBooks.
link to this extract


Smart watch market grows 60% in Q3 2016 as Apple ships 2.8m units • Canalys

»

Apple shipped 2.8m Watches in Q3, thanks to the release of the new Series 1 and Series 2 models late in the quarter. Despite reports to the contrary, Canalys research shows that shipments compared favorably to those in Q3 2015, the first full quarter after the original Apple Watch’s launch in April 2015. Total smart watch shipments exceeded 6.1m for the quarter, an annual increase of 60%.

«

By contrast, IDC put the third-quarter figure for Apple at 1.1m, and the total market at 2.7m. That’s quite a difference between the two, though Canalys’s higher total doesn’t do any favours to Android Wear – its figure suggests about 0.8m Android Wear watches for the quarter.

Analyst estimates did put Watch shipments higher than the 1.1m based on Apple’s results, so maybe Canalys is on to something.
link to this extract


Voice control the new breakout star in smart home technology • ABI Research

»

“Voice control will not only draw in new consumers to smart home functionality, but it will help transform a wide variety of new and emerging smart home services and devices into more attractive investments,” says Jonathan Collins, Research Director at ABI Research. “The stage is set for voice control to become the heart of any smart home system.” 

Amazon’s market leadership with its Alexa products and Google’s emerging Home platform strategy reflect not just the popularity of voice control devices within the home but also how voice will become a key smart home interface in the still emerging market for smart home managed systems. Alongside Amazon and Google, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft all have the impetus to bring similar devices and functionality to market.

While voice control will take a greater share of device revenue spending, it is an application that will push into and help drive all smart home markets and device categories. By 2021, more than 600 million smart home devices will ship annually, up from 40 million in 2015.

«

That’s a lot of devices, given that there aren’t anywhere near as many homes as there are people.
link to this extract


What the New York Times missed with its big GMO story • Grist

Nathanael Johnson:

»

if genetic engineering really had turned out to be a silver bullet for agriculture, we would be able to see the change in the zoomed-out big picture. And if GMOs [genetically modified organisms] had proved to be a quantum leap forward, we would see it in Times writer Danny Hakim’s crude country-level comparisons. In that regard, Hakim’s contribution is useful.

The problem here is that there’s enough data that you can easily pick the evidence to support your favorite narrative, depending on where you focus. For instance, in a rebuttal to the story, Monsanto’s chief technology officer picked a narrower focus and found plenty of data for a counternarrative making the case for biotechnology. The most balanced approach is to look at all the available evidence — and that’s what the National Academy of Sciences report already did.

Hakim cites the report where it supports his conclusions, but not in the places it contradicts them. He writes that the report found “‘there was little evidence’ that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops.” But Hakim doesn’t mention that the report also noted that genetic engineering increased yields “where weed control is improved” and “when insect-pest pressure was high.” He doesn’t mention the report found that insect-resistant GMOs reduced insecticide use “in all cases examined”…

…Because most of us aren’t farmers, we have a hard time seeing the GMO age at all. But U.S. farmers can see it. Farmers aren’t backward dupes who are easily tricked into buying unnecessary technologies. These days, farmers are skeptical and tech-savvy. Many have multiple degrees. They often test yields and pest-resistance by planting half a field with one kind of seed, and half with another. They clearly think they’re getting something valuable when they pay the extra money for GMOs. Both farmers interviewed in the Times piece — one in France and one in South Carolina — said they thought GMOs were helpful.

«

It’s that last paragraph that’s most important. What do the people who have to put their money on the line think? The ones with the direct experience?
link to this extract


The irrational downfall of South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye • Ask a Korean!

“T.K” on the bizarre scandal engulfing South Korea’s president:

»

Even in her apology, president Park Geun-hye showed that she still might be under Choi Soon-sil’s hold. What would a self-interested politician would do, if the corruption of one of his cronies was revealed? The politician would sell the crony down the river, denying up and down that he ever knew or interacted with the crony. Such denial would be cowardly and dishonest, but at least it is predictable. But not with Park Geun-hye. She stood in front of the whole country and admitted that Choi Soon-sil fixed her speeches. Instead of cutting ties with her, Park reaffirmed that Choi was an old friend who helped her during difficult times.

This is utterly irrational. Rational people can expect that a corrupt politician may steal money for himself. They can even expect that he may steal for his family. But no one can expect that a corrupt politician would steal money for a daughter of a fucking psychic who claimed to speak with her dead mother. No one, not even the most cynical Korean, expected that the president would refuse to cut ties with Choi Soon-sil, a woman with no discernible talent other than manipulating the president and humiliating her in the process. Koreans may expect that the president would be corrupt, but they never could have expected that the president might be feeble in her mind.

Sports columnist Bill Simmons coined the term “Tyson Zone,” in which nothing you hear about a particular celebrity can possibly surprise you. Did you hear that Mike Tyson urinated on a police officer? Of course he did! Did you hear that Mike Tyson is attempting to breed unicorns? Of course he is! Given what you already know about Mike Tyson, none you hear about Mike Tyson could possibly surprise you.

With Choi Soon-sil-gate, Park Geun-hye put the entire country into the Tyson Zone.

«

I found it difficult to follow the dramatis personae in this, but it reads like something from Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Also: if the US votes in Trump, it’s going to follow South Korea into the Tyson Zone damn fast.
link to this extract


The passenger train created to carry the dead • BBC

Amanda Ruggeri:

»

For 87 years, nearly every day, a single train ran out of London and back. It left from a dedicated station near Waterloo built specifically for the line and its passengers. The 23-mile journey, which had no stops after leaving London, took 40 minutes. Along the way to their destination, riders glimpsed the lovely landscapes of Westminster, Richmond Park and Hampton Court — no mistake, as the route was chosen partly for its “comforting scenery”, as one of the railway’s masterminds noted.

How much comfort a route gives passengers isn’t a usual consideration for a train line. But this was no normal train line.

Many of the passengers on the train would be distraught. The others — those passengers’ loved ones — be dead. Their destination: the cemetery.


A rare view of the first London Necropolis Railway station, built in 1854; it was demolished after the new station was built in 1902 (Credit: SSPL)

In operation from 1854 to 1941, the London Necropolis Railway was the spookiest, strangest train line in British history. It transported London’s dead south-west to Brookwood Cemetery, near Woking, in Surrey, a cemetery that was built in tandem with the railway. At its peak, from 1894 to 1903, the train carried more than 2,000 bodies a year.

It also transported their families and friends. Guests could leave with their dearly departed at 11:40am, attend the burial, have a funeral party at one of the cemetery’s two train stations (complete with home-cooked ham sandwiches and fairy cakes), and then take the same train back, returning to London by 3:30pm.

«

link to this extract


Handsets equipped with USB Type-C connectors will take off worldwide in 2017 • Strategy Analytics

»

USB connectivity has been a part of mobile phones since the 1990s. Today, nearly all handsets sold globally contain an open or proprietary USB port.  Over that time-period, USB has evolved from Type-A connectors to Type-B and now Type-C.  The first Type-C portable device to emerge was the Nokia N1 tablet introduced in Q4 2014. Apple introduced Type-C ports in Q1 2015 when it unveiled its latest MacBook portable computer.  The first mobile handsets to incorporate the technology were smartphones introduced first by LeTV, followed by  OnePlus 2 and Zuk Z1, in 2015 almost two dozen handsets with Type-C was introduced.

Strategy Analytics forecasts global USB-C handset sales to grow a huge +1600% between 2016 and 2022. Emerging first in China, from LeTV, OnePlus and others in 2015, handsets equipped with USB Type-C connectors will take off worldwide next year, as costs fall.

Beyond Asia, North America and Western Europe will see rapid adoption of the technology. We predict Type-C will become the dominant connector-port on cellphones.

USB-C will first appear in high-end models, but it will soon begin to migrate to lower-tier devices. In the first phase Type-C is used as a differentiator but soon it will become a standard for all devices.

«

link to this extract


MacBook Pro review: the Air apparent • The Verge

Vlad Savov:

»

To Apple’s credit, there’s no single Windows laptop that yet matches all of the MacBook line’s key strengths — touchpad ergonomics, battery life, display, and industrial design — but Apple’s changes have now created an opportunity that didn’t exist before. All a Windows vendor needs to do to convince me is to build something as good as a MacBook and then top it off with a simple SD card slot. macOS isn’t as major an advantage as it used to be, especially for someone like me whose professional life revolves around Google and Adobe’s cloud services.

When it launched the MacBook in 2015, Apple wasn’t shy about claiming it had reinvented the laptop. With the benefit of some hindsight, I’d argue Apple only reinvented its own product line. Copycat designs have arisen, as they always do, but the MacBook’s biggest impact so far has been within Apple’s walled-in ecosystem. We can see more of the new MacBook’s DNA in the new MacBook Pro than original MacBook Pro features. This is just the way Apple laptops are made now and we can either learn to like it or go elsewhere.

And that, frankly, is the problem here. Apple is trying to return to its old habit of dragging us forward into the future like a wild-eyed inventor, but this time it might have cut a little too deep into present-day functionality while trying to promote tomorrow’s technology. Apple could have been a major trailblazer for USB-C even while retaining a classic USB port and a photographer-friendly SD card slot. I don’t think those things would have disrupted the MacBook Pro’s scrupulously perfected proportions or Apple’s bottom line too much.

I don’t know if I’ll be buying this MacBook Pro, in spite of its superb design and performance, and that’s surprising to me.

«

Essentially, the PC (desktop/laptop) ecosystem stopped evolving; USB-C is externally imposed, aiming to do everything for everyone at Intel’s urging so it would create new demand for PC CPUs.

However the ideal person, or people, to get to review the new MacBook Pro would be those who actually use it to the limit – video editors, DJs, photographers. Not those whose trade is writing. I wonder if we’ll ever get to the stage where reviews of pro equipment are done that way.
link to this extract


Revised estimates of Leave vote share in Westminster constituencies • Medium

Chris Hanretty is reader in politics at the University of East Anglia:

»

I’ve been working on improved estimates which do have this property, and which also include results from Scotland. The details of the analysis can be found in a research note; the estimates themselves can be found in this Google Docs spreadsheet.

The difference between the two estimates are slight. 32 constituencies were formerly estimated to have voted Leave, but are now estimated to have voted Remain; 11 went the other way. This means a net change of +21 for Remain in England and Wales. Including Scotland, this means that 401 of 632 constituencies (63%) are now judged to have voted for Leave.

«

This is why even if Parliament votes on triggering Article 50 (to initiative the UK’s exit from the EU), it won’t change the outcome. Any MP who votes against the will of their constituency is committing political suicide. You can also see a rough map from July; the story’s the same, though the numbers slightly different.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start up: Facebook booms (and busts Admiral), Fitbit struggles, whither Macs?, and more


Newspapers: all washed up? Photo by Nathan Winter Design 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 9 links for you. Apply externally. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Facebook is right to sink Admiral’s app • Open Rights Group

»

Late yesterday, on the eve before Admiral tried to launch Firstcarquote, their application’s permission to use Facebook data was revoked by the social media site.

According to Admiral’s press release their app would use, “social data personality assessments, matched to real claims data, to better understand first time drivers and more accurately predict risk.” So young people could offer up their Facebook posts in the hope of getting a reduction in their car insurance.

However, their application has been found to be in breach of Facebook’s Platform Policy section 3.15, which states:

»

Don’t use data obtained from Facebook to make decisions about eligibility, including whether to approve or reject an application or how much interest to charge on a loan.

«

«

Bah – Admiral should just target people who have old or crashed cars via Facebook. But it’s a rare instance in which Facebook can look like the positively good player.
link to this extract


April 2015: Have publishers lost their minds with Outbrain? • Mediapost

Ari Rosenberg:

»

Last November, Time Inc. announced a $100 million keg-party deal with Outbrain.  So now its sites will have more traffic, and hence more inventory, while lowering the quality of its audience through the lens of common sense. 

For example:

Food & Wine magazine (part of Time Inc.) has a rate base of 925,000.  Advertisers see that number and it makes sense.  Foodandwine.com reports 8.5 million monthly unique visitors.  That number makes far less sense for this affluent brand.  How can its prestigious audience demographics not get watered down at this unnatural size? 

Here are more examples of premium sites listed as Outbrain customers, who appear to have outgrown their brand’s natural size:

New York magazine has a rate base of 400,000. It reports 14.5 million monthly uniques.  Only 8.4 million people live in New York City.

INC. magazine reaches a clearly defined audience of “owners of growing businesses.”  The magazine’s rate base is 700,000.  The Web site reports 7 million monthly uniques, which makes the site audience less clearly defined…

…The idea that buying a click to your site for 10 cents through Outbrain is going to then convert into a more dedicated site visitor is just an excuse. The real reason sites do this: to have more impressions for their lower quality advertisers buying the site via RTB, and to help fulfill orders sold to advertisers who bought that site directly. Neither outcome helps premium publishers increase the value of what they sell.

Outbrain is just another short-term fix that creates a long-term problem.

«

The point about New York magazine is quite neat; though of course there could be that many people interested in New York.
link to this extract


Google security engineer claims Android is now as secure as the iPhone • Motherboard

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:

»

As an example of Android’s misunderstood security, [Android director of Adrian] Ludwig used the infamous series of critical bugs known as Stagefright, which were found last year. Ludwig noted that despite the alarm and the potential danger to practically all Android users, they have yet to see a real-life hack on an Android phone done exploiting Stagefright.

“At this point we still don’t have any confirmed instances of exploitation in the wild,” he said.

Obviously, Ludwig admitted that while things have gotten much better in the last year, telephone carriers and phone manufacturers that use Android still have to improve their update cycles and become quicker in adopting security patches.

“We got quite a bit of work left to do to get to a point where that actually happens on a regular basis across the whole the ecosystem,” Ludwig said.

«

link to this extract


Wherefore art thou Macintosh? • Asymco

Horace Dediu:

»

Indeed, because no usurper was allowed to emerge, PC/Windows never moved to a mobile evolution of computing. Microsoft’s platform future was lost because the antibodies which eat disruptions were left unchecked.

But Apple’s immune system was suppressed. It allowed a disruptor to emerge from within. Apple gave birth to its future by suppressing the reaction to that new seemingly parasitic organism. It took an immense willpower to allow this to happen.

But it takes us back to the question of what to do with the incumbent, the donor of DNA and resources. The parent that sacrificed for the child.

The Mac is thus not treated disparagingly. It deserves and gets respect. It is preserved but with limited responsibilities.

Which brings me to the question of what it is allowed to be and hence what it is. It cannot take on the role of being the future. That belongs to the touch screen devices. It will not morph into a touch device any more than a teen’s parent will become cool by putting on skinny jeans. What it will do is become better at what it is hired to do.

The key to the Mac therefore becomes that which the iPad/iPhone isn’t: an indirect input device. The keyboard and mouse/trackpad are what define the Mac. The operating system, the apps, the UX, are all oriented around the indirect input method. The iPhone’s capacitive touch brought about the direct input method, a third pivot in input methods (first was mouse, second trackpad/scroll wheel). Each pivot launched a new set of platforms and the Mac is the legacy of the second.

«

link to this extract


Print newspapers are dying faster than you think • Vox

Timothy B. Lee:

»

Advertising is a cyclical business. Revenue tends to go up during economic booms and then decline during recessions. So when newspapers ad revenues plunged in 2008 and 2009, many in the industry hoped this would prove a temporary setback and that they’d regain some of the lost ground once the economy recovered.

Instead, over the past six years the opposite has happened: Newspaper advertising revenues have continued to deteriorate even as the economy booms. The latest numbers from a number of major newspapers tell a grim story.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal announced that it was consolidating some sections of the newspaper to cope with dwindling ad sales. The transition to a slimmer paper will be aided by a round of buyouts [voluntary and compulsory redundancies] the Journal announced last month.

And the situation is even grimmer at smaller papers. For example, the Ithaca Journal in upstate New York announced today that it was laying off two editorial staffers, leaving a paper that once employed an editorial staff of more than 20 people with just two full-time reporters.

«

Read on to discover who to glare at over this.
link to this extract


Facebook beat Q3 earnings estimates, has more than a billion daily users • Recode

Kurt Wagner:

»

The social giant beat earnings estimates Wednesday, bringing in more than $5.7bn in mobile advertising revenue alone. That’s bigger than Facebook’s entire business in Q3 of 2015. It also surpassed one billion “mobile only” monthly active users for the first time last quarter, which means those billion-plus users never visited Facebook on any device other than a phone.

Why does that matter? Well, it underscores what we’ve known for quite a while now, that advertisers are spending more and more on mobile advertising, and Facebook is in a unique position to collect a lot of those ad dollars. In fact, it’s one of just two businesses driving the whole industry. (Hey, Google!)

«

That’s money that isn’t available to any other media outlet to win as advertising. Data from the IAB suggests that when you remove Facebook and Google, digital advertising in the US actually shrank in the first half of this year. This doesn’t seem healthy.
link to this extract


Feds strike down another multi-national “tech support” scam • Ars Technica

Joe Mullin:

»

Federal authorities say a group of scammers that “bilked millions” from US consumers with pop-up ads and hijacked Web browsers has been sued by the Federal Trade Commission.

The scheme, which operates under the name Global Access Tech Support, used pop-up ads that told consumers their computers were “hacked, infected, or otherwise compromised,” according to the FTC complaint (PDF) published yesterday. Consumers are then instructed to call a toll-free number in the message. The pop-ups “are typically designed so that consumers are unable to close or navigate around them, rendering consumers’ web browser unusable.”

Anyone who calls the toll-free number is connected to telemarketers in India, who then roll out a sales pitch explaining that the caller’s computer is “in urgent need of repair.” The telemarketers claim they’re affiliated with either Microsoft or Apple or are “certified” by those companies.
If they’re still along for the ride at this point, users are directed to a website that prompts them to begin a remote access session. The telemarketers gain access to the computer and “run a series of purported diagnostic tests, which, in reality, are nothing more than a high-pressured sales pitch designed to scare consumers into believing that their computers are corrupted, hacked, otherwise compromised, or generally performing badly.”

«

I wrote about these gangs at the Guardian back in 2012; nothing has changed, essentially. They’re making millions per year from this scam, and have no reason to stop – VOIP calls from India are cheap, and people are so used to Indian accents on support lines that they’re easily fooled.
link to this extract


How Spotify can tear up the music business • Bloomberg

Leila Abboud:

»

I’ve looked before at how Spotify could lure more paying customers by offering distinct high and low-end services at different prices. There’s something else it might do to improve profits and shore up its power: mimic Netflix by becoming a producer as well as a distributor — and take other steps to bring more music on board that doesn’t cost so much.That means acting more like a label. Traditional music labels do two big things: discover and nurture artists, and market them. With a trove of user data, a strong brand and global reach, Spotify could do that too. Imagine if it branched out into developing independent-minded artists such as British grime star Skepta. Or if it allowed unsigned acts to upload music to its service in a similar way to SoundCloud or YouTube. Spotify could even try buying independent music labels such as Beggars Group (home of SubPop and Matador Records) or Warp (London’s electronic dance music specialist.)It could then use its control over curated playlists and recommendations to push its own stuff. Over time, this might even give it more clout when negotiating with labels.

«

Sure to be antitrust issues if it were to get too big. And while streaming music might not be profitable, setting up artist labels isn’t a path to riches any more either.
link to this extract


Fitbit shares are crashing after missing on sales and cutting its full-year earnings forecast • Business Insider

Akin Oyedele:

»

The maker of fitness trackers said it now sees fourth-quarter adjusted earnings per share (EPS) in a range of $0.14-$0.18, far below analysts’ forecast for $0.75 according to Bloomberg. It lowered its full-year revenue guidance to a range of $2.32bn and $2.4bn, but analysts had expected $2.6bn. 

This weak guidance came ahead of the holiday quarter, which is critical for consumer-electronics makers and retailers, since their products are popular gift items.

The market for wearable fitness trackers is intensely competitive, with Fitbit stacked up against the likes of Garmin and Apple. 

In the third quarter, Fitbit’s unit sales grew 11%, and its average selling price rose by the same amount. New products like the Charge 2 and Flex 2 attracted new customers.

«

Sold more than 50m, but tough times lie ahead.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified