Start Up: Trump snubs Twitter, Japan’s vanishing people, BeatsX delayed, Surface Hubs boom, and more

Yahoo’s security seems to look like this. Photo by barmala on Flickr.

Apologies for the non-arrival of The Overspill’s Start Up email yesterday. This was due to scheduling problems. Bonus: two sets of links today! (Too late to get Airpods, though.)

A selection of 14 links for you. Keep it to yourself. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Yahoo discloses new breach of 1 billion user accounts • WSJ

Anne Steele:


Yahoo revealed new security issues affecting more than a billion users’ data, a theft that is separate and twice as large as the hack it disclosed earlier this year.

On Wednesday, Yahoo said an unauthorized third party stole data associated with more than one billion user accounts in August 2013. In September, Yahoo blamed “state-sponsored” hackers for stealing data on 500 million user accounts, which at the time was the largest theft of personal user data ever disclosed.

Yahoo has agreed to sell its core business to Verizon Communications Inc. On Wednesday, Verizon said it would review the impact of the new breach.

Yahoo said it has taken steps to secure user accounts and is working closely with law enforcement.

In November, Yahoo disclosed law enforcement gave the company data files that a third party claimed was Yahoo user data. On Wednesday, the company confirmed it appears to be Yahoo user data.


I know: your first thought is “Yahoo has a billion accounts?” and your second thought is “so this is what happens to your security when all you’re interested in is selling ads, but you’re bad at doing that too.”
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Source: Twitter cut out of Trump tech meeting over failed emoji deal • POLITICO

Nancy Scola:


Trump has had public beefs with other tech execs at the sit-down. He’s criticized Cook over Apple’s refusal to decrypt a cellphone whose owner was implicated in a terrorist incident, for example, and Bezos over his ownership of The Washington Post. But, it seems, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s role in what the Trump operation saw as the breaching of a deal was a step too far for those close to Trump.

The incident at issue was detailed in a Medium post last month by Gary Coby, director of digital advertising and fundraising for the Trump campaign. According to Coby, Dorsey personally intervened to block the Trump operation from deploying — as part of a $5m deal between the social media company and the campaign — an emoji showing, in various renderings, small bags of money being given away or stolen. That emoji would have been offered to users as a replacement for the hashtag #CrookedHillary, a preferred Trump insult for his Democratic opponent.


The Trump team told Reuters that Twitter was “too small” to be included. But it also includes the claim made above.

In the video linked below, Trump says: “I won’t tell you the hundreds of calls we’ve had asking to come to this meeting,” [laughter in the room], “and I will say Peter (Thiel) was sort of saying ‘no that company’s too small,’ and these [attending] are monster companies.” The smallest is Tesla, market cap $32bn; Twitter’s is just under $14bn.

Influence isn’t however the same as value, as Microsoft could tell you in mobile.

Also: what an excruciating meeting. Twitter is better out of it.
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Photo: Who sat where during Trump’s meeting with tech leaders • Business Insider

Biz Carson has the lowdown, along with everyone else. The seating plan doesn’t seem to allow for an exchange of views; instead, they’re all mixed in with each other. Reuters video has Trump opening proceedings by saying: “I’m here to help you folks do well, and you’re doing well right now… right now everybody in this room has to like me at least a little bit…”

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The chilling stories behind Japan’s ‘evaporating people’ • New York Post

Maureen Callahan:


Since the mid-1990s, it’s estimated that at least 100,000 Japanese men and women vanish annually. They are the architects of their own disappearances, banishing themselves over indignities large and small: divorce, debt, job loss, failing an exam.

The Vanished: The Evaporated People of Japan in Stories and Photographs” (Skyhorse) is the first known, in-depth reportage of this phenomenon. French journalist Léna Mauger learned of it in 2008, and spent the next five years reporting a story she and collaborator Stéphane Remael couldn’t believe.

“It’s so taboo,” Mauger tells The Post. “It’s something you can’t really talk about. But people can disappear because there’s another society underneath Japan’s society. When people disappear, they know they can find a way to survive.”

These lost souls, it turns out, live in lost cities of their own making.

The city of Sanya, as Mauger writes, isn’t located on any map. Technically, it doesn’t even exist. It’s a slum within Tokyo, one whose name has been erased by authorities. What work can be found here is run by the yakuza — the Japanese mafia — or employers looking for cheap, off-the-books labor. The evaporated live in tiny, squalid hotel rooms, often without internet or private toilets. Talking in most hotels is forbidden after 6 p.m.

Here, Mauger met a man named Norihiro. Now 50, he disappeared himself 10 years ago. He’d been cheating on his wife, but his true disgrace was losing his job as an engineer.


This is an amazing tale. (Suggested tags other people have used about this story on Pinboard: “japan” – obviously enough – and “capitalism”. Hmm.)
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Google to spin out self-driving car project in new company, Waymo • Business Insider

Biz Carson and Danielle Muoio:


the first version of Waymo’s self-driving technology to become available won’t be quite the revolution that Google once promised. While Google has been testing a fleet of pod-shaped autonomous vehicles without steering wheels or pedals, executives acknowledged on Tuesday that, for the time being at least, cars will continue to be piloted by humans, with Waymo’s self-driving technology included as a feature.

The spinout of the self-driving car unit, which is currently housed in X, another Alphabet company, has been expected for some time. But the move comes as Google has faced some setbacks in bringing its vision of a steering-wheel free car to market and as it faces increases competition from Uber, the ride-hailing company which is also developing self-driving cars, as well as other automakers.

“We are a self-driving technology company,” Krafcik said. “We’ve made it pretty clear we are not a car company…. We’re not in the business of making better cars, we’re in the business of making better drivers. We’re a self-driving technology company.”


As noted before, all that stuff with the cars was just to attract interest.
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Google acquires smartwatch OS startup Cronologics, will work on Android Wear • VentureBeat

Ken Yeung:


The acquisition is a homecoming for Cronologics, which was founded in 2014 by Lan Rcohe, Leor Stern, and John Lagerling — all of whom have previously worked at Google in business development. In the past two years, they have sought to develop a way to build “compelling wearable hardware” and software-based experiences, using a common architecture.

Some of the company’s technology has already been integrated into the smartwatch CoWatch. Cronologics was able to place its Alexa-equipped operating system into the product so that you can control your smartwatch using your voice — perhaps like K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider? With this capability, Google may want the Cronologics team to flesh out the capabilities in Android Wear so that it’s more voice-enabled and could be used to facilitate more third-party voice-activated apps, and perhaps even pair with other connected devices, such as the Google Home.


Slightly more consolidation in the wearables market.
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Microsoft’s surprise hardware hit: the Surface Hub • Ars Technica

Peter Bright:


The average Surface Hub customer is buying about 50 devices for each deployment, and the company will hit more than 2,000 customers by the end of the year. One (unnamed) car manufacturer bought 1,500 of the things. Though Microsoft didn’t reveal the exact mix between sizes, Surface Hub looks like it’s another billion-dollar-a-year business for the software giant—to boot, it’s a piece of hardware that it got right even in version one. In a Forrester report commissioned by Microsoft, it’s claimed that meetings start more promptly—less faffing about to get remote attendees dialed in or computers hooked up to the projector—saving 15 to 23 minutes per meeting. Less measurable, Microsoft claims that Surface Hub is also driving greater meeting engagement, with people standing up and engaging with each other and the screen rather than hiding behind their laptop screens around a conference table or quietly playing games on their phones.


2,000 customers buying 50 units is 100,000 units at between $9,000 and $22,000 each. Decent business, and probably a decent margin. Plus they’re all-in on Windows.
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Google launches first developer preview of Android Things, its new IoT platform • TechCrunch

Frederic Lardinois:


Google has partnered with a number of hardware manufacturers to offer solutions based on Intel Edison, NXP Pico and the Raspberry Pi 3. One interesting twist here is that Google will also soon enable all the necessary infrastructure to push Google’s operating system updates and security fixes to these devices.

In addition, Google also today announced that a number of new smart device makers are putting their weight behind Weave. Belkin WeMo, LiFX, Honeywell, Wink, TP-Link and First Alert will adopt the protocol to allow their devices to connect to the Google Assistant and other devices, for example. The Weave platform is also getting an update and a new Device SDK with built-in support for light bulbs, smart plugs, switches and thermostats, with support for more device types coming soon. Weave is also getting a management console and easier access to the Google Assistant.

Google’s IoT platforms have long been a jumble of different ideas and protocols that didn’t always catch on (remember Android@Home from 2011?). It looks like the company is now ready to settle on a single, consolidated approach. Nest Weave, a format that was developed by Nest for Nest, is now being folded into the overall Weave platform, too.


Fingers crossed that the security updates really do get to the devices. As we’ve seen with the IoT, security is much more important than on smartphones because web servers will do anything you tell them to.
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European cloud adoption grows thanks to Microsoft Office 365 push • Computer Weekly

Cliff Saran:


Microsoft appears to be increasing its share of the cloud-based office suite market compared with the Google rival, G Suite.

The study by data protection company Bitglass was based on analysis of 8,000 mail servers to determine the cloud apps being used in businesses.

Bitglass reported that, in the UK, Office 365 grew from 16.4% in 2015 to 35% in 2016, while G Suite’s adoption increased from 7.2% in 2015 to 18.7% in 2016.

In France, adoption of Office 365 grew from 22.4% in 2015 to 49.8% in 2016, while German adoption grew from 16.2% to 40%. French adoption of G Suite grew from 14.5% in 2015 to 32.3%, while in Germany the adoption of G Suite grew from 6.3% to 23.3%…

…The imbalance between Office 365 and G Suite illustrates the challenge Google faces. First, many European organisations put a high priority on data privacy, which tends to favour the Microsoft offering. Second, Microsoft’s publicly stated strategy has been to move existing customers onto its cloud products.


Basically becoming a two-player market.
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Apple says BeatsX earphones delayed until February • Mac Rumors

Joe Rossignol:


Apple has updated its website to indicate its all-new BeatsX wireless earphones will be available in February in the United States, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, and several other countries, after originally saying they would launch in the Fall. Online pre-orders can still not be placed at this time.

BeatsX earphones feature Bluetooth and the same Apple W1 chip used by AirPods, which launched on Tuesday, enabling users to pair them by simply powering them on and holding them near an iPhone. Unlike the truly wireless AirPods, the BeatsX have a Flex-Form cable that keeps the earpieces tethered to each other.


This starts to point to the W1 chip as the source of the problems with the AirPods: if yields were too low, or testing didn’t pick up faults, that would explain a lot. You’d need to landfill all the chips from one run, and go around again; it might not need a new fab (since you know the chips can work) but would need new testing. And you’d have to destroy all the AirPods you had made, unless you could re-test every single one.

That’s sort of “sound quality problems”, as mentioned yesterday, but more subtle.
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Cookie warnings could be removed from websites under EU plans • Daily Telegraph

James Titcomb:


The notices are widely seen as irritating and ineffective, revealing little about how they are actually using people’s data and routinely ignored.  

“While such banners serve to empower users, at the same time, they may cause irritation because users are forced to read the notices and click on the boxes, thus impairing [the] internet browsing experience,” the Commission said in the draft document. 

It suggested that internet users could set their privacy options within the browsing software’s settings, with websites then detecting a visitor’s settings and automatically removing the cookie notice if the use has already been deliberately approved or blocked within the browser’s settings. 

Websites that only use cookies for basic functions that do not affect privacy, such as remembering language options, could also be exempt from the proposals.


2016 is saved, everyone!
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How Google may be slowing down AMP by not using direct links to publishers • Search Engine Lane

Danny Sullivan:


It’s worth noting that if you’re using Google’s search app on iOS or through the built-in search feature on Android, a publisher’s URL is shown, not the Google cache URL. But in a regular browser, it’s not. This is something Google told me would be impossible for it to do, if the company wanted to continue to prerender AMP pages and to support features like swiping from one AMP story to the next.

I get why Google would want to make it easy for people to swipe through stories, but from what I can tell, this is something only supported for AMP stories that appear in Google’s “Top Stories” box for news-related content, not with regular search listings. There’s no reason I can see that it has to go with a Google cache URL for regular listings.

As for prerendering, as best I can tell, that just is another word for caching. That’s Google saying in another way that it can’t use a publisher’s URL if it wants to serve AMP pages from its supposedly faster cache. But given that the cache either isn’t that much faster, and potentially slower, this feels odd.

In the end, I think Google should leave the choice to publishers.

Those who don’t care about the URL that is shown can go with the Google cache and trust that Google says their pages will load more quickly.

For those who want their own URLs to show, Google should come up with mechanism within AMP allowing for this to be indicated, something similar to how meta tags exist to indicate if a publisher prefers their own page description over those from the Open Directory.


When Sullivan says “this feels odd” he’s essentially saying “wrong”, but couching it more gently, as his readers like Google. However AMP is not popular with people who like to share links, because it all goes back to Google, not the publisher.
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Synaptics debuts new fingerprint sensors capable of scanning through display glass • Mac Rumors

Juli Clover:


Amid rumours suggesting Apple plans to debut a 2017 iPhone with an edge-to-edge display with built-in Touch ID, Synaptics has announced its own under-glass fingerprint detection solution, debuting a new line of Natural ID FS9100 optical fingerprint sensors.

The FS9100 sensors are capable of scanning a fingerprint through 1mm of full cover glass, allowing for button-free display designs that are still able to take advantage of fingerprint recognition functionality.

According to Synaptics, the sensors have been specifically designed for placement under cover glass, including 2.5D glass, located in the front, bottom bezel of smartphones and tablets.

The FS9100 sensors eliminate the need for cutouts on the display of a device, and because they’re under glass, they’re scratchproof, waterproof, and respond well to wet fingers. Wet finger performance is something that causes most fingerprint sensors, including Apple’s, to fail.

Synaptics says its sensors are also designed to be thin and consume a minimal amount of power, while also using AI to distinguish between fake and actual fingers.


All the pieces begin to line up…
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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