Start Up: SeekingAlpha shamed, Mac Pro redux, the telltale iPad, Google’s $800m OLED Pixel, and more

The US border with Canada: would you hand over your passwords? Photo by Mike Cogh on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Updated thoughts on the Apple Mac Pro situation • Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin:


I don’t fault Apple for making a bet on massively parallel computing tasks. Many of us were sold on the whole GPGPU (general purpose GPU) computing vision Nvidia was selling at the time. It made a lot of sense for developers to offload huge workloads to the GPU, even if it took some rewriting of their programs. This simply didn’t take off and, even if it had, things like VR and machine learning/computer training via workstations would still have needed modern GPUs.

If anything has changed in the last six months, it is Apple’s realization the Mac may be a more important form factor overall than they expected. I think the iPad had a higher priority than Mac from a R&D and development standpoint and I’d be willing to bet those priorities are more balanced now.

I still believe in the Mac business thesis I wrote about last year. Apple can take significant share in the PC space if they were to get more aggressive with entry level Mac pricing. Specifically, if they were to take the MacBook Air to $799 or update it to Retina at $999.

I believe Apple is now seeing the data many of us are — the PC market is actually quite healthy and, from an ASP standpoint, laptop ASPs continue to rise while tablet ASPs continue to decline. From a business standpoint, I think its clear how to balance the priorities for now.


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SEC targets Seeking Alpha, Benzinga in crackdown on “fake news” pump and dumps • Zero Hedge

“Tyler Durden”:


the SEC said that seventeen defendants including Galena Biopharma, ImmunoCellular Therapeutics and Lion Biotechnologies agreed to pay more than $4.8m, including fines and restitution, to settle, and to refrain from further wrongdoing. Not all defendants were required to make payments, and Galena, ImmunoCellular and Lion did not admit wrongdoing. None of the websites was charged.

The SEC filed lawsuits against the other 10 defendants in Manhattan federal court. These defendants include Lidingo Holdings LLC, run by Kamilla Bjorlin, 46, an actress from Encino, California who performs under the name Milla Bjorn, and CSIR Group LLC, a New York firm overseen by Christine Petraglia, 49.

Amusingly, the SEC also issued an alert warning investors that articles on investment research websites may not be objective and independent, and that they should never invest based solely on information published there.

And yet, the SEC seems to have no problem with sound “advice” from the big investment bank, such as Morgan Stanley telling its clients the coming rally in the S&P is one they can’t afford to miss, as we discussed earlier, citing a quote from the bank’s new head of equity research who said, “The end of the cycle is often the best. Think 1999 or 2006-07. In a low-return world, investors cannot afford to miss it.”

Morgan Stanley did not go into detail on what would happen if the investors got into the “1999” or “2006-2007” rally and found that the crashes of 2000 or 2008 followed…

As for the named websites, they all said that they use the appropriate disclaimers. Mike Taylor, a Seeking Alpha managing editor, said in an email that its policies “act as a strong deterrent against potential promotions,” including documenting “all authors’ claims to not having been compensated by third parties.”  Benzinga said in an email that it uses a disclaimer to identify articles from outside contributors, and that each “does not represent the opinion of Benzinga and has not been edited.”


Ah, such depths of deception. iBankcoin has hated Seeking Alpha for years. I sometimes read Seeking Alpha, but many of the “analysis” articles are so dim it’s amazing the comments are able to underbid them.
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Five of the wildest details in report on Alabama guv’s efforts to hide affair • Talking Points Memo

Allegra Kirkland on the impeachment proceedings against the Republican governor, of which I liked this one:


Unbeknownst to the governor and Mason, the frequent romantic texts they exchanged were all visible to Dianne Bentley. The governor’s state-issued cell phone’s cloud was linked to his state-issued iPad, which he had gifted to his then-wife, allowing her to watch the rumored affair unfold in real time.

“I’m so in love with you,” Bentley wrote to Mason in one text, along with two heart-eye emojis. “We are pitiful.”

“Poor Robert. Poor Rebekah,” he added.

“Yes… Bless our hearts… And other parts,” Mason wrote back.

“Magnetic,” Bentley replied.

The device oversight was only one of Bentley’s errors.

In spring 2014, he mistakenly sent a text to his wife reading, “I love you Rebekah,” along with an emoji of a red rose.


Dinner in the dog on that one I think.
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Mastodon is what disruption looks like right before it happens • Forbes

Paul Armstrong:


Twitter may have a new problem. Just six months old, Mastodon is an open-source version of Twitter that just might upset a few Twitter stakeholders. Name aside (seriously, an extinct animal?), the fledgeling service is getting a lot of tongues wagging for fixing more than just a couple of competitors (read: Twitter) bugbears – a core part of Clayton Christianson’s Disruptive Innovation theory (see table below). A larger amount of characters (500), fewer trolls, chronological timelines, public timelines, better block and mute tools, per-post privacy – what’s not to love?


Mastodon is also what disruption looks like right before it goes bust or just vanishes. I can’t figure out if I need to join an instance or what.
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UK tourists to US may get asked to hand in passwords or be denied entry • The Guardian

Alex Hern:


Tourists from the UK and other US allies including Germany and France, could be forced to reveal personal data, as well as disclose financial information and face detailed ideological questioning, according to Trump administration officials quoted by the Wall Street Journal. While US citizens have established rights against unlawful searches at the border, the extent to which foreign travellers can resist requests to hand over personal information is unclear.

The US customs and border patrol told the Guardian: “All international travellers arriving to the US are subject to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) inspection. This inspection may include electronic devices such as computers, disks, drives, tapes, mobile phones and other communication devices, cameras, music and other media players and any other electronic or digital devices.

“Keeping America safe and enforcing our nation’s laws in an increasingly digital world depends on our ability to lawfully examine all materials entering the US,” it added. The CBP said it strives to process arriving travellers as efficiently and securely as possible while ensuring compliance with laws and regulations governing the international arrival process. It did not answer specific questions about social media accounts and devices.


This isn’t proportionate. The assumption appears to be guilt. It’s going to be a big turnoff for would-be tourists (perhaps as much as the weakened pound).
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Google offers at least $880 million to LG display for OLED investment: Electronic Times • Reuters

Se Young Lee:


Google Inc has offered to invest at least 1 trillion won ($880.29m) to help South Korea’s LG Display Co Ltd boost output of organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens for smartphones, the Electronic Times reported on Monday citing unnamed sources.

The paper said Google offered the investment to secure a stable supply of flexible OLED screens for its next Pixel smartphones. Samsung Electronics flagship Galaxy smartphones use the bendable displays, while Apple is expected to start using them in at least some of its next iPhones.


I couldn’t find the ET report, hence this link. That’s a lot of money for Google to be putting into LG, given how few Pixels it got made.
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Google Home app says multiple users are now supported • Android Police

Rita el Khoury:


We’ve known for a while that multiple user support would come to Google Home. It only makes sense that a device placed in the home can be used by several persons instead of being linked to just one user’s data and music and other accounts. But until now, we had only seen the signs of multi-user support in Cody’s teardown of the app.

Today though, users have started seeing a new card in the Discover tab of the Google Home app titled “Multiple users now supported.” The card says that you and others in your house can enjoy a “personalized experience” from Assistant on the Google Home, but so far the feature doesn’t appear to be live just yet.


Classic Android blog fare – “um, Google said something, so that’s great! Except it’s not there, so, um, anyway.”

The identification isn’t via voice recognition – you have to do it in the Google Home app, which takes a lot of the shine off this.

Also, if one person starts, say, music they’ve chosen, can another person turn it off? If not, why not? If so, why? The questions are a bit concerning once you start considering them. Multiple users sounds easy, but in a shared space with a single controller, isn’t.
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Samsung Electronics decides not to sell its digital cameras anymore • Korean ET News

Jung Youngil:


“We are not going to produce and sell digital cameras anymore.” said Samsung Electronics on the 5th [April].

[The] ‘Digital camera’ item was also eliminated from Samsung Electronics’ business report on sales of IM (IT and Mobile) field. Although digital cameras were included as major sales of [the] IM [information machinery – includes mobile phones and computers] field along with HHP, network systems, and computers until third quarter of last year, they disappeared due to reduction of sales. Existence of Samsung Electronics’ digital cameras ended with mirrorless camera called ‘NX 500’ that was released in March of 2015.

“We are not going to produce and sell digital cameras anymore.” said a representative for Samsung Electronics. “However we are not completely putting aside camera business but we are making a new category of new products.”


Nobody else seems to have picked this up. But it’s like recording the death of species: you need to know when the conditions finally changed enough that they couldn’t survive.
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Why I always tug on the ATM • Krebs on Security

Brian Krebs:


Once you understand how easy and common it is for thieves to attach “skimming” devices to ATMs and other machines that accept debit and credit cards, it’s difficult not to closely inspect and even tug on the machines before using them. Several readers who are in the habit of doing just that recently shared images of skimmers they discovered after gently pulling on various parts of a cash machine they were about to use.

Viewed from less than two feet away, this ATM looks reasonably safe to use, right?


Wrong, of course, but it’s surprising how wrong. This ought to make you nervous about the next ATM you use – and every one after that too. Krebs has done many, many posts on this topic, because it’s important.
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Hacking blamed for emergency sirens blaring across Dallas early Saturday • Dallas News

Claire Ballor, Robert Wilonsky and Tom Steele on the suspected hack that set off 156 sires around the city early on Saturday morning:


Council member Philip Kingston, a member of the Public Safety Committee, said Saturday morning that officials will move the compromised emergency system to the top of their agenda.

“And that’s sad, because the list is so long,” he said, referring to other problems, including the short-staffed 911 call center.

“If this is indeed hacking, it has just become top priority,” Kingston said. “And you can put me down as terrified.”

Jennifer Staubach Gates, who also serves on the Public Safety Committee and is chairwoman of the Budget, Finance and Audit Committee, said City Auditor Craig Kinton recently told her it was time for the city to review its security vulnerabilities.

“If it’s hacking, it’s extremely concerning,” she said. “If someone’s messing with our emergency system, we’ve got an issue. We need to get to the bottom of it — what kind of vulnerabilities do we have?”


The answer to that is probably “more than one”. Another day (or early morning), another IoT exploit.
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DeepMind’s AlphaGo takes on world’s top Go player in China • Ars Technica UK

Sebastian Anthony:


Humanity has been granted one last attempt to beat its artificially intelligent overlords: Ke Jie, the world’s top-ranked Go player, will face down against DeepMind’s AlphaGo in China in a three-game match starting May 23.

The odds are not good for Ke Jie: back in January AlphaGo secretly played 51 online matches against some of the world’s best players, including Ke Jie, and didn’t lose a single one. Still, as Homo sapiens’ last redoubt against in silico domination, he has to try.

Demis Hassabis, co-founder of DeepMind, says the match is part of a larger “Future of Go Summit” in the town of Wuzhen, China—the country where Go was invented some 3,000 years ago. The summit will draw “leading AI experts” from Google and China, and in addition to the marquee event there’ll be some experimental matches.

In one slightly insulting variation, five human players will team up to try and beat a single AlphaGo AI.


I don’t see Ke Jie winning this. But as Hassabis says, what AlphaGo has done is show that humans can play better – because it can play better than humans so far.
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State of online advertising and Google’s growth prospects • Naofumi Kagami


The graph below is from a Morgan Stanley report and provides a forecast of the internet advertising landscape.

We can see that the combined revenue of YouTube and Google Search is projected to decline from 42% market share to 41%. This is a bit more optimistic than my prediction that Google’s revenues will be squeezed, but nonetheless, it forecasts that Google will only be able to grow at the digital advertising average. (This year, this was mid double digits but according to eMarketer, this will drop to about 3% + total ad industry growth in 2020.)


Kagami’s argument (previously expressed) is that Google’s growth is naturally limited by the size of ad budgets; with Facebook rampant, that limit becomes more apparent and could emerge by 2020.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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