Start Up: Vertu sold for £50m, your Facebook data selfie, the tiny workstation market, and more

Then again, “passwört” might make a good password if hackers only use English dictionaries. Photo by Joachim S Müller on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Turkish exile snaps up smartphone maker Vertu for £50m • Daily Telegraph

Christopher Williams:


The scion of an exiled and secretive Turkish business dynasty has bought the British smartphone maker Vertu, which targets the wealthy buyers with handsets costing up to £40,000.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal that Baferton Ltd, a Cyprus-registered vehicle funded by Hakan Uzan, has paid around £50m to acquire the Hampshire manufacturer from its Chinese owners Godin Holdings.

Mr Uzan is part of one of Turkey’s most controversial families and was once found in contempt of court in Britain. He has tangled in court with the current President of the United States and Nokia, the mobile giant that created Vertu in the first place.

Nokia built Vertu in the late 1990s to carve out a niche for handmade devices based on expensive materials including sapphire screens, ostrich leather casing and titanium frames.


Read the story for how he got into a row with Nokia. I don’t think Vertu is long for this world.
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Password rules are bullshit • Coding Horror

Jeff Atwood:


If you examine the data, this also turns into an argument in favor of password length. Note that only 5 of the top 25 passwords are 10 characters, so if we require 10 character passwords, we’ve already reduced our exposure to the most common passwords by 80%. I saw this originally when I gathered millions and millions of leaked passwords for Discourse research, then filtered the list down to just those passwords reflecting our new minimum requirement of 10 characters or more.

It suddenly became a tiny list. (If you’ve done similar common password research, please do share your results in the comments.)


This is a terrific rant by Atwood, but it also contains lots of good points about passwords.
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What does my Facebook data say about me? I found out using Data Selfie • This Is Not a Sociology Blog

Christopher Harpertill:


What is most interesting is not so much what [social networks] do know about us but rather what they want to know about us and how they go about categorising us. As the philosopher of science Ian Hacking has pointed out, the categorisation of people is not a neutral act. When we create “human kinds” (categories or types of people) this has a “looping effect”. He suggests that:

To create new ways of classifying people is also to change how we can think of ourselves, to change our sense of self-worth, even how we remember our own past. This in turn generates a looping effect because people of the kind behave differently and so are different.

The problem with the kind of categorisation which Data Selfie reveals is that we are not aware of the classifications which are produced by social networks but our experiences are shaped by them anyway. The adverts and news articles we see online are chosen for us by the kinds the kind of analysis I’ve discussed here. More worryingly social media data (and the classifications they produce) are used to identify potential terrorists and in China to feed into an all purpose “social credit system” which will determine peoples’ access to services and act as a tool of “social management”.  Tools such as Data Selfie are really valuable for highlighting how opaque systems are being used to analyse us but we also have to think very carefully about how these might be used.


As a way of finding out what Facebook thinks of you, it’s quite effective. Of course, Facebook is wrong about you.

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Workstation market shipment increased 20% in fourth quarter • GraphicSpeak

Randall Newton:


The workstation market is thriving. In 2Q16, Jon Peddie Research reported results as inspiring. 3Q16 results were even better, record-setting. 4Q16 results require a new level of superlatives. If a mature market like this one can be said to have a “blowout” quarter, this would be it.

With total shipments of around 1.23 million units, the worldwide market for workstations grew at 20.1% year over year (with revenue close behind at 18.6%).


And that’s a record shipment figure. I never knew the workstation market was so tiny. Unless most of those in use are actually assembled from motherboards. And it’s split between HP and Dell (38%, 35%) with Lenovo in third place with 14%.

So that’s 0.47m units for HP in its record quarter.
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Glitch • Fog Creek Software

A new web offering from the Fog Creek bunch:


Glitch is the friendly community where you’ll build the app of your dreams

With working example apps to remix, a code editor to modify them, instant hosting and deployment – anybody can build a web app on Glitch, for free.


The idea is that it’s collaborative coding, rather like Google Docs is for writing on the web. Worth a look if that’s your thing.
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Why international first class is slowly disappearing from airlines • Skift

Brian Sumers:


As recently as a decade ago, passengers on most airlines who wanted a flat-bed often had one option — international first class. In business class, airlines usually had a cradle-style seat, or an angled flat-seat. Both are comfortable, but neither is as conducive to a good-night’s rest as a flat seat.

Now, nearly every international airline has an adequate flat bed in business class. Most have some drawbacks — they’re usually not as wide or as long as first class beds, and they often don’t have as much room for storage or a passenger’s feet as flyers would like — but they are sufficient. And business class seats, even the most generous ones, take up less space than first class, so carriers can sell more of them.

Over time, even the most flush companies started requiring executives to fly in business class. Now, airlines with first class are chasing a small segment of passengers who see value in a larger seat with more personalized service. From some destinations, like Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, London, Dubai, and Hong Kong, enough customers exist. But on others, few passengers will pay a premium.

Keeping an industry-leading first class can be expensive. With the gap in seat quality narrowing, airlines often make up the difference by offering over-the-top amenities passengers don’t need. Many serve caviar and expensive champagne, even though the New York Times recently noted that $100 (or more) per bottle champagne doesn’t taste great at altitude.

Some airlines, like Lufthansa, have dedicated first class lounges and car services that whisk passengers from one gate to another, so they need not walk through the terminal. Others, like Emirates and Etihad, have onboard showers.


Those showers are the ones which have Jennifer Aniston installed, right? Odd though how the elite elements of air travel are being whittled away: first Concorde, now first class.
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Trump supporters protest The Man In The High Castle’s anti-Nazi radio station • The A.V. Club

Sean O’Neal:


As part of an ad campaign for its original series The Man In The High Castle, Amazon recently launched Resistance Radio, a streaming station set, like the Philip K. Dick adaptation itself, in an alternate 1962 America run by fascists. The pre-recorded program features “bootleg songs” alongside interstitials where underground DJs talk about standing up to Nazis, urging listeners to keep the fight alive in a nation that’s been overrun by fear, oppression, and authoritarian rule. For whatever reason, some conservatives have interpreted this as being about Donald Trump. And faced with what appears to be such a strong anti-Nazi statement, and a call for people who still believe in American ideals to stand up against the country’s destruction, naturally these patriots have rushed to loudly denounce it.

As io9 reported, a dystopian satire of the kind even Dick could not have imagined has played out today under Twitter’s #ResistanceRadio hashtag, which shot to the top of the site’s trending list thanks to a clearly demarcated paid promotion (or, as some have suggested, Twitter’s obvious liberal conspiracy). There, loyalists with as many as two American flag emojis in their usernames have been bravely standing up to this stupid, leftist, “don’t be a Nazi” claptrap, sneering generally at the prospect of anyone “resisting” anything, and laughing at all those idiots who just don’t get it.


So hard to think why these conservatives would think something anti-Nazi could be about Donald Trump and his minions. 🤔
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Pandora has to face the music • Bloomberg Gadfly

Tara Lachapelle:


Here’s the predicament: Given Pandora’s strapped finances and inferior competitive position, the company should sell itself. But there’s really only one suitor out there, and that’s Sirius XM Holdings Inc., by way of Liberty Media Corp., Sirius’s current majority owner and potentially its future 100% owner.

[Greg] Maffei is chairman of Sirius and CEO of Liberty Media, while dealmaking titan John Malone is chairman of Liberty. They’ve made their interest in Pandora no secret, but there’s a wide gap between what they’d be willing to pay and what Pandora founder and CEO Tim Westergren will accept.

Asked about a deal at an investor conference last week, Maffei stirred the pot:


I would buy Pandora if it were not $13. Do you want to sell it for $10? We probably will buy it. They aren’t selling for $10.


In fact, $13 might not even cut it. Sirius reportedly made an offer of as high as $15 a share in 2016 that was rejected by Pandora’s board. But Westergren is a member of the board who happens to be up for reelection in a couple of months. And the company’s second-largest shareholder is activist hedge fund Corvex Management, which has been pressuring Pandora to sell itself.


Pandora’s IPO price was $16 in 2011. But it burnt through $241m in cash in 2016. It’s going to need a buyer. SoundCloud, Tidal, Pandora – 2017 is going to be brutal in the streaming music business, just like 2016 was. Meanwhile Westergren says Pandora will be profitable this year. I’ll bet against that one.
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The Commuter trucker jacket is a connected piece of apparel from Levi’s and Google • Digital Trends

Lulu Chang:


Why have a wearable on your wrist when you can have it all over your torso? Two years after first teasing us with its line of connected clothing, Google and Levi’s have put us out of our misery. The first piece to come out of Project Jacquard is the Commuter Trucker jacket, and as a reward for waiting so long, you’ll have to pay $350 for the garment.

The key to the Commuter is the fabric of the jacket’s left sleeve. While technically powered by a rechargeable tag that’s found on the inside of the sleeve, the very material of the jacket is itself smart. Indeed, its comprised of a conductive yarn that could theoretically be woven into any fabric, and as a result, any sort of clothing. From there, you could just touch your clothing as you would a touchscreen in order to activate certain functionalities, like playing music.

As it stands, Google is trying to figure out how third-party developers can contribute to the platform, which means that for the time being, the Commuter will only be able to manipulate the core functionality of your smartphone, like answering the phone, reading texts, or managing your Calendar and figuring out Maps. And because this is a Google product, it probably won’t work so well with your iPhone.


I detect a certain amount of sarcasm in the “as a reward for waiting so long” bit. It’s pretty clear already that this is the Google Glass of whenever it arrives.
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Gordmans Stores files for bankruptcy with plan to liquidate • Bloomberg

Andrew Dunn:


Omaha, Nebraska-based Gordmans, which operates over 100 stores in 22 states and employs about 5,100 people, is the latest victim in a retail industry suffering from sluggish mall traffic and a move by shoppers to the internet. 

The shift has been especially rough on department stores, including regional chains like Gordmans that once enjoyed strong customer loyalty, but even national concerns like Sears Holdings Corp. and Macy’s Inc. have had to close hundreds of locations to cope with the slump.

Gordmans traces its roots to 1915, when Russian immigrant Sam Richman opened a clothing shop in Omaha. He later teamed up with a former Bloomingdale’s executive, Dan Gordman, whose car broke down in Omaha en route to California. Gordman met Richman’s daughter while he was waiting for his car to be repaired and decided to stick around. The two later married.

Private equity firm Sun Capital Partners bought the business in 2008 and took it public two years later. Funds managed by Sun Capital hold about 49.6% of Gordmans’ equity, according to a court filing.


This feels like a squeeze of the little by the niche, the giant and the online. There isn’t much room in between.
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Rogue Twitter accounts fight to preserve the voice of government science • The Intercept

Alleen Brown:


The Alt_BLM account is one of dozens of “alt” and “rogue” federal agency accounts that launched shortly after Trump’s inauguration, operating under names like altEPA and Rogue POTUS Staff. A number of the accounts are administered by actual federal employees, including three that provided information to the Intercept indicating they work for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Interior Department. Others are run by a cast of characters that includes a former military analyst who worked for the NSA, a union employee, an art student, and a Boeing employee. Most of them declined to be named out of fear of workplace retaliation and pressure to shut down their accounts.

The alt-accounts’ activism is premised on the assumption that their key participants cannot be identified for fear of workplace retaliation, and though their primary act of rebellion is simply tweeting the truth, it’s a setup in many ways primed for exploitation by scammers. In the case of alt-accounts that have used their massive following to sell merchandise, noble motives are virtually unverifiable for followers.


Very notable that she doesn’t mention @RoguePOTUSstaff – which claims to be inside the White House. I expect she tried and got nowhere, so focussed on the science (and labour) ones.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: First: a wine expert who also knows about the restaurant where Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai were pictured tells me that there were wine glasses on the table, and “the staff don’t leave them there if they aren’t used”. So Cook and/or Pichai had some wine.

Second: the .xyz TLD is owned by XYZ, not Google. The security company BlueCoat isn’t impressed by those who hang out at .xyz domains, though they make an exception for Google of course.

1 thought on “Start Up: Vertu sold for £50m, your Facebook data selfie, the tiny workstation market, and more

  1. The elite of air travel just moved off the standard commercial plane and switched to private planes. That way you don’t have to be anywhere near the rabble (particularly as the latest private jets are almost as fast and nearly have the same range). I think of that everytime I see someone in Congress bypass the security line to head to a private jet.

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