Start Up: losing God and finding Trump, Apple’s sweet solution, the Hitler sitcom (honest), and more


Hodgkin lived in what is now the UK’s most expensive area, per square metre, outside London. Photo by addedentry on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Enjoy Easter. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

House prices by square metre in England & Wales • Anna Powell-Smith

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This map shows for the first time the average price per m2 of houses in each postcode district in England & Wales. It uses new government data on floor area from EPC certificates, matched with 6.2 million residential house sales since 2007.

Sale prices range from more than £20,000 per square metre in SW1X (Belgravia) and W1K (Mayfair) to under £1,000 in postcodes like DN31 (Grimsby) and CF43 (Rhondda). Click to see details for a postcode, or zoom to London, Birmingham, Manchester.

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Such wonderful work. As you’d expect, London has all of the most expensive space (for the top 100); you have to go to Richmond (still London really) and then Oxford to escape its gravitational pull.

Powell-Smith is amazing. Since you’re wondering:

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Methodology: Sale prices taken from Land Registry’s Price Paid dataset of residential property sales to individuals since August 2007. Floor area in m2 per property taken from Energy Performance Certificates. I join each property sale to the property’s most recent EPC, using normalised addresses: this finds a match 79% of the time, for around 6.2 million property sales. The aggregate price per m2 for each postcode district is then calculated as the total price of all sales, divided by the total floor area of all properties

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link to this extract


How the Bible Belt lost God and found Trump • FT

Gary Silverman:

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I took my place in the book-lined study of [emeritus professor and Baptist minister Wayne] Flynt’s redwood house in Auburn, Alabama, to hear his thoughts on the local economy, but the conversation turned to a central mystery of US politics. Trump would not be president without the strong support of the folks Flynt has chronicled — white residents of the Bible Belt, raised in the do-it-yourself religious traditions that distinguish the US from Europe. I wondered how a thrice-married former casino owner — who had been recorded bragging about grabbing women by the genitals — had won over the faithful.

Flynt’s answer is that his people are changing. The words of Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, are less central to their thinking and behaviour, he says. Church is less compelling. Marriage is less important. Reading from a severely abridged Bible, their political concerns have narrowed down to abortion and issues involving homosexuality. Their faith, he says, has been put in a president who embodies an unholy trinity of materialism, hedonism and narcissism. Trump’s victory, in this sense, is less an expression of the old-time religion than evidence of a move away from it.

“The 2016 election laid out graphically what is in essence the loss of Christian America,” Flynt says, delivering his verdict with a calm assurance that reminded me of Lee’s hero, Atticus Finch, as played by Gregory Peck in the 1962 film of her novel.

“Arguably, what has constituted white evangelical Christian morality for 200 years no longer matters, which is to say we’re now a lot like Germany, a lot like France, a lot like England, a lot like the Netherlands, and what we have is a sort of late-stage Christian afterglow.”

…Flynt says evangelical Christians are mainly mobilising against the sins they either do not want to commit (homosexual acts) or cannot commit (undergoing an abortion, in the case of men). They turn a blind eye toward temptations such as adultery and divorce that interest them.

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A fascinating analysis.
link to this extract


Investigation finds inmates built computers and hid them in prison ceiling • WRGB

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Investigators say there was lax supervision at the prison, which gave inmates the ability to build computers from parts, get them through security checks, and hide them in the ceiling. The inmates were also able to run cabling, connecting the computers to the prison’s network.

“It surprised me that the inmates had the ability to not only connect these computers to the state’s network but had the ability to build these computers,” Ohio Inspector General Randall J. Meyer said. “They were able to travel through the institution more than 1,100 feet without being checked by security through several check points, and not a single correction’s staff member stopped them from transporting these computers into the administrative portion of the building. It’s almost if it’s an episode of Hogan’s Heroes.”

The inmates were able to get the parts from a program where inmates break down computers in order to learn computer skills and recycle the parts.

The Ohio Inspector General says investigators found an inmate used the computers to steal the identity of another inmate, and then submit credit card applications, and commit tax fraud. They also found inmates used the computers to create security clearance passes that gave them access to restricted areas.

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They ought to be locked u– oh.
link to this extract


Apple secretly working on glucose monitoring for diabetes • CNBC

Christina Farr:

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Apple has hired a small team of biomedical engineers to work at a nondescript office in Palo Alto, California, miles from corporate headquarters.

They are part of a super secret initiative, initially envisioned by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, to develop sensors that can noninvasively and continuously monitor blood sugar levels to better treat diabetes, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Such a breakthrough would be a “holy grail” for life sciences. Many life sciences companies have tried and failed, as it’s highly challenging to track glucose levels accurately without piercing the skin.

The initiative is far enough along that Apple has been conducting feasibility trials at clinical sites across the Bay Area and has hired consultants to help it figure out the regulatory pathways, the people said.

The efforts have been going on for at least five years, the people said. Jobs envisioned wearable devices, like smartwatches, being used to monitor important vitals, such as oxygen levels, heart rate and blood glucose. In 2010, Apple quietly acquired a company called Cor, after then-CEO Bob Messerschmidt reportedly sent Jobs a cold email on the topic of sensor technologies for health and wellness. Messerschmidt later joined the Apple Watch team.

…One of the people said that Apple is developing optical sensors, which involves shining a light through the skin to measure indications of glucose.

Accurately detecting glucose levels has been such a challenge that one of the top experts in the space, John L. Smith, described it as “the most difficult technical challenge I have encountered in my career.”

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This would be a hell of a thing if – big if – Apple can get it to work: it would quickly become the single most popular wearable device for blood sugar monitoring. But the margin for error would be minimal.

I don’t think Google’s project to do it via contact lenses is going to bear fruit, even though it gets wheeled out every couple of years for journalists to swoon over. (It’s about due for another outing; the last version was a bandage, proudly announced in August 2015.)
link to this extract


Security advisory: mobile phones • Kraken

This is not short, but if you really do get concerned about the security of your systems, this is the blogpost for you:

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Somehow, the masses have been led to believe that phone numbers are inextricably bound to identities and therefore make good authentication tools.  There’s a reason that Kraken has never supported SMS-based authentication:  The painful reality is that your telco operates at the security level of a third-rate coat check.  Here’s an example interaction:

Hacker:  Can I have my jacket?
Telco: Sure, can I have your ticket?
Hacker:  I lost it.
Telco:  Do you remember the number?
Hacker:  Nope, but it’s that one right there. 😉
Telco:  Ok cool.  Here ya go.  Please rate 10/10 on survey ^_^

So, we need to achieve three things:
1.  A shift in the way we think about phone numbers
2.  The securing of your phone number (to the extent possible)
3.  The separation of your phone number from any security functions

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link to this extract


The disruption of democracy • Medium

James Allworth with a subtle analysis of what has changed about our perception of “entrepreneurship” and its effects over the past century or so:

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There is an important, and somewhat counter-intutitive insight here: the best way to keep an economy healthy isn’t by prioritizing the economy.

It’s by prioritizing democracy.

This focus on democracy is what keeps destructive and unproductive entrepreneurship at bay. When wealthy special interests come knocking on governmental doors — and given the nature of entrepreneurs, those knocks will happen, accompanied by promises of campaign contributions in exchange for favorable policy— on what basis do policy makers make their decision of what to do? I genuinely believe that most actors on both sides of this equation — in business, and in government — are good people. They’re motivated to do good. But they have a set of forces working on them to behave in a certain way in such a situation.

The business leaders? That’s easy. They’re looking to profit. They’ll do so however they can, within the rules of the game. There are two levers implicit in that statement: play the game as it stands. Or change the rules.

And the policy-makers? Well, they’re looking to get re-elected. With that as the goal, their criteria for judging whether a policy is worth pursuing is two-fold. First, how are voters going to react? Because if they don’t like this, and they change their vote… well I’m out of office.

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link to this extract


Rise of subscriptions and the fall of advertising •The Graph

Bob Gilbreath:

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Advertising has always been a “tax” on our attention. Historically the interruptions were limited and we had little control over the handful of channels we read, watched and listened to. But the rise of digital media has put more control in people’s hands. When you give people freedom to get what they want, when they want it, they will seek to get it without paying that attention tax.

The “free media with advertising” grand bargain seems more like a bad deal as the value of our attention spans rise. We have more media choices and distractions than ever before in our lives. We are multi-tasking and keeping up with many things at once. Pausing to watch an advertisement is a speed bump in our busy lives. And once we cut some of these interruptions out with subscriptions, the remaining ads we do see feel even more painful — thus shifting the value equation toward skipping and subscribing.

The media channels haven’t been in love with the advertising-supported business model lately, either. Not only do they make a lot less money by trading in analog dollars for digital dimes, but they are under constant pressure to keep up with the rapid pace change. Big brands are forcing publishers to cover the cost of 3rd party verification thanks to a system that is being overwhelmed by fraud. There is a “stack” of ad-tech add-ons from venture-backed startups and sexier social networks that are taking a growing piece of every budget.

All that cost is on top of the investment in a highly-paid sales force that must continually wine and dine clients to stay in the preference set. And don’t get me started on the Taboola and Outbrain models that add click-bait to the bottom of every page in order to try and wring out just a little more revenue — at the cost of brand equity and journalistic integrity.

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I think *Americans* are discovering this. We’ve known it outside America, which is passionate about extracting the last bit of distraction from every moment – how long does a baseball game take? An American football game? Many of the delays in tennis matches now are driven by the need to insert adverts. Soccer frustrates US TV because it doesn’t pause at predictable times (except half-time) or for predictable lengths of time.
link to this extract


Heil Honey, I’m Home! (Series) • TV Tropes

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Heil Honey, I’m Home! is a comedy show about Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun moving next door to a Jewish couple.

Yes, someone actually filmed and aired a sitcom with that premise. It’s real.

The show was written by British comedy writer Geoff Atkinson (one of the main writers of Spitting Image) in the 1990s, and is an almost perfect example of a Stealth Parody show. Possibly the most bizarre example of a “reimagining”, the series set out to depict Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun living in suburban bliss, with their lives interrupted only by Hitler’s dislike for their next door neighbours, an incredibly stereotypical Jewish couple. It was presented to the viewer as a “long lost”, “recently rediscovered” 1950s sitcom, parodying and distorting beyond recognition the worst features of such programs (with unnecessary canned applause for every character entrance, hideously vacuous plots and dialogue, and a truly awful title sequence).

The show’s ultimate intent seemed to be to illustrate and parody the banal, cookie-cutter nature of most shows in this style. If one changed the names of the main characters, along with a couple of lines, the show would be indistinguishable from a genuine post-war sitcom, and the humour is largely derived from the jarring fact that the domestic fool main character just happens to be Hitler. That said, it’s hard to see how the premise, originally envisioned as a comedy sketch, would’ve been maintained over a series of shows.

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I guess it could have become darker and darker.. ending up with them moving into the basement. More recently Ricky Gervais’s Extras also sought to destroy through parody the awful sitcoms that plague evenings – but which we don’t watch any more because we have so much other choice. (No, don’t mention Mrs Brown’s Boys and its gigantic viewership.)
link to this extract


Apple supplier Synaptics is at risk of insourcing: Credit Suisse • Business Insider

Rob Price:

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The Californian firm builds interface technologies, driver displays, and biometric tech, and is a partner of Apple.

But analysts at Credit Suisse took a look at Apple suppliers who could face being insourced in a research note sent to investors on Tuesday, and concluded Synaptics was deemed most likely.

It’s worth noting that Credit Suisse’s analysts don’t seem to have any hard evidence that Apple is going to ditch Synaptics (like a leaked contract, say). They’re just identifying the company as being, in their view, at particular risk, given certain public information.

Why? They identify a few reasons. It would let Apple “optimize power and performance with its internal graphics engine,” for one. And it would also “lessen [Apple’s] reliance on Samsung for OLED displays.” Apple and Samsung are long-time frenemies — the former relies on the latter for hardware components, even as they fight bitterly for dominance of the high-end smartphone market.

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Surely the point is about whether “insourcing” the product allows Apple to gallop ahead, or if it’s just part of the normal assembly stuff. Hard to know without deeper knowledge of how Synaptics stuff is used. (Thanks Sai Narayan.)
link to this extract


Android market share rises in urban China • Kantar Worldpanel

The monthly update:

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“Android has achieved continuous growth in China since last February, with its strongest year-on-year gains coming in the three months ending February 2017, when its share rose 9.3 percentage points,” said Lauren Guenveur, Consumer Insight Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. “As we’ve seen in the past, this was due to a strong sales period around Chinese New Year, which is always a busy promotional season, particularly for local brands. Huawei, Oppo, Meizu, Vivo, and 360 all posted year-on-year growth.”

“In the three-month period ending February 2017, iOS accounted for 13.2% of smartphone sales in urban China, a decline of 8.9 percentage points from 22.1% a year earlier. This marks iOS’ lowest share since the three-month period ending July 2014,” reported Tamsin Timpson, Strategic Insight Director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Asia. “That said, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus remained the top selling devices in the region, accounting for 8% of smartphone sales. By comparison, iPhone 6s and 6s Plus accounted for 14% of smartphone sales in the three months ending February 2016.”

“While Android continued to make gains in EU5, growth slowed to just 0.9 percentage points between February 2016 and February 2017, while iOS gained 2.7 percentage points to capture 21.8% of smartphone sales,” said Dominic Sunnebo, Business Unit Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe…

…Among US consumers intending to purchase over the next six months, 23% indicate that they will consider a Google Pixel. But since its release, Pixel has not been able to surpass 2% of smartphone sales, in part because supply constraints have limited its availability.

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The precipitous drop in apparent sales in China will probably be a concern to Apple, but what Kantar never does (because it relies on a panel who report what they’ve bought, so even very small numbers changing their behaviour can create apparently big change) is indicate how sales volumes are changing overall.

And meanwhile, yeah, the Pixel people need to get their act together.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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