Start Up: AR for cyclists, “Google Docs” phishing attack, Facebook staffs up, save Energy Star!, and more


A tricorder, like in Star Trek! Soon we might have a real-life one. Photo by MikeBlogs 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 11 links for you. May the fourth, it is. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Coming soon: cyclist goggles with fighter pilot technology • Bloomberg

Gwen Ackerman:

»

Elbit Systems Ltd., the Israeli drone maker, is gearing up to sell its first consumer product in nearly a quarter-century – augmented reality goggles for bicycle riders, equipped with technology developed for fighter-pilot helmets.

Made by Everysight, an Elbit spinoff, the glasses have a map-projection overlay that helps riders navigate new terrain, gives real-time performance metrics and allows cyclists to receive notifications, calls and text messages. Chief Financial Officer Joseph Gaspar said the solution is similar to obstacle-avoidance technology for autonomous cars developed by Mobileye NV, an Israeli company that Intel Corp. bought in March for $14.7bn.

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Looks fun.
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New Google Docs phishing scam, almost undetectable : google • Reddit

Jake Steel:

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I received a phishing email today, and very nearly fell for it. I’ll go through the steps here:
• I received an email that a Google Doc had been shared with me. Looked reasonably legit, and I recognized the sender.
• The button’s URL was somewhat suspicious, but still reasonably Google based.
• I then got taken to a real Google account selection screen. It already knew about my 4 accounts, so it’s really signing me into Google.
• Upon selecting an account, no password was needed, I just needed to allow “Google Docs” to access my account.
• If I click “Google Docs”, it shows me it’s actually published by a random gmail account, so that user would receive full access to my emails (and could presumably therefore perform password resets etc).

Shortly afterwards I received a followup real email from my contact, informing me: “Delete this is a spam email that spreads to your contacts.”

«

Uses Google’s login system, and you only realise it’s fake if you hit “Google Docs” while you grant permission; bypasses 2-factor authentication. Scary stuff. (The original post contains screenshots too.) It would be able to “read, send, delete and manage your email” and “manage your contacts”.

Essentially, it’s an app – but by calling it “Google Docs” it fools people, very effectively. Google blocked that, but other versions are popping up. (And expect them with Unicode variations on “Google” using weird “o”s and so on. If you got one of the emails and clicked on it, here’s the place to revoke its access.)
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Apple looks to face down Watch critics • FT

Tim Bradshaw:

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For some, it has excelled where other smartwatches have failed, seducing consumers with its classy design and posing a threat to Swiss watchmakers. Others claim it is a clunky dud that never lived up to its fashionista billing, failed to create the promised new app platform and barely registered financially next to the iPhone.

Entangled with both perspectives are questions of whether Apple can still innovate or if it will find another hit product as profitable as its smartphone.

Apple’s refusal to reveal Watch sales figures has only fuelled the argument. On Tuesday, Apple finally took its first steps towards revealing the Watch’s performance by indicating that total sales for its “wearable” products exceeded $5bn over the past 12 months.

Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, told analysts on Tuesday’s earnings call that revenue from “wearable products”, including Apple Watch and its headphones, Beats and AirPods, “in the past four quarters was the size of a Fortune 500 company”.

Discount clothing retailer Burlington Stores, the lowest-ranked member of the Fortune 500 by revenues, posted $5.6bn in sales for its most recent fiscal year, according to regulatory filings, giving analysts at least a hint of the figure Mr Cook had in mind.

«

Gene Munster (Whom Saints Preserve) reckons about $4.7bn is Watch revenue. And the wearables total puts it in spitting distance of Swatch ($7.6bn).

It’s not the phone. But nothing is. Drawing level with Swatch would have been a dream 15 years ago.
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Xiaomi’s guardian angel is India • CNET

Daniel van Boom:

»

The past year has seen Xiaomi fall from grace in its homeland of China, dropping from the top spot at the end of 2015 to just making the top 5 in 2016. But the company is now back to making a splash – only this time, it’s in India.

Xiaomi scored a valuable silver medal over the weekend, with Counterpoint Research showing the company to be the second highest selling smartphone brand in India, behind only Samsung.

That’s a growth of 200% from the year prior, according to Counterpoint Research analyst Tarun Pathak. “India has come to Xiaomi’s rescue by adding an extra couple of million units to its quarterly numbers,” he said.

“India is the most important and the largest market for Xiaomi outside of China,” Manu Jain, managing director of Xiaomi India, said to CNET in a statement…

…Still, it’s too early for Xiaomi to soak in a victory lap. Oppo and Vivo, the same competitors to displace it in China, are hot on its heels in India. Xiaomi owned 13% of the market in Q1, while Vivo and Oppo took 12% and 10% respectively.

«

One gets the feeling this is like Temple Run, where Xiaomi is pursued by the monkeys and one wrong turn will bring calamity.
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Initial thoughts on the design of the Surface Laptop • Tech Specs

Daniel Matte:

»

The company is comparing its new laptop directly to the 13″ MacBook Pro, particularly emphasizing how the Laptop weighs 0.26 pounds less than the Pro. Part of the weight difference is due to the Laptop’s Alcantara surface, which I find to be the most interesting engineering decision. This material choice trades off structural rigidity and thermal dissipation efficiency for lower weight and greater comfort.

It is critical to note, though, that the Laptop only offers 15W U-series Core CPUs from Intel, while the 13″ MacBook Pro also offers 28W CPUs for its more expensive configurations. In other words, the Surface Laptop has been aimed at a lower TDP, and thus lower performance, target than the 13″ Pro. An eventual 15” Surface Laptop with H-series CPUs now seems likely, and many would be excited by such a product. Microsoft’s concession to its OEM partners is that it is once again only competing at the very high end of the market.

First, the bad news. The Laptop features one “full-size” USB Type-A port and one Mini DisplayPort, but no Type-C ports. At this point, Microsoft’s affinity for legacy ports and eschewing of any and all progress in connector standards is comical. Enterprise usage isn’t even a real concern, so there’s really no excuse.

I also strongly recommend not buying the base configuration with only 4GB of RAM. That makes the real starting price $1,299, in my opinion…

…The combination of lower frequency targets, the Alcantara, and the size of its singular fan make me somewhat skeptical about the energy and thermal efficiency of the case design. I would expect conservative DVFS tuning. Public testing will have to wait on a review by AnandTech. Panay did weirdly seem to suggest that the keyboard feels warm during normal use.

Even though much of this article has been criticism and concerns, overall I have a very positive impression of the product.

«

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Windows 10 S won’t let you change the default browser or switch to Google search • The Verge

Tom Warren:

»

In a FAQ for Windows 10 S, Microsoft admits “you are able to download another browser that might be available from the Windows Store, but Microsoft Edge will remain the default if, for example, you open an .htm file.” This means if you click a link from another app, or open a link from an email then you’ll be thrown into Microsoft Edge, even if you wanted to use another browser. It’s not clear if Google will even bring Chrome to the Windows Store, but if it does then it might be a pointless venture as it won’t be fully functional without being the default browser on Windows 10 S.

Likewise, Microsoft is also crippling its own Edge browser. The default search provider in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer in Windows 10 S cannot be changed. Bing will be the default, and Microsoft is preventing users from switching to Google or other search providers for some unknown reason. This isn’t the type of choice Windows users are typically used to, and it will be interesting to see if Microsoft is willing to alter this based on feedback from Windows 10 S users.

«

So $50 (from next year) to be able to use Google as the default? But it’s a smart move. Also notable in the FAQ:

»

Windows 10 S was inspired by students and teachers and it’s the best Windows ever for schools. It’s also a great choice for any Windows customer looking for consistent performance and advanced security.

«

Basically, it’s Windows as ChromeOS. (You can’t change the default browser in that either, I think.)
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Free software to reveal how Facebook election posts are targeted • The Guardian

Robert Booth:

»

A tool exposing how voters are targeted with tailored propaganda on Facebook has been launched in response to what is likely to be the most extensive social media campaign in general election history.

Experts in digital campaigning, including an adviser to Labour in 2015, have designed a program to allow voters to shine a light into what they describe as “a dark, unregulated corner of our political campaigns”.

The free software, called Who Targets Me?, can be added to a Google Chrome browser and will allow voters to track how the main parties insert political messages into their Facebook feeds calibrated to appeal on the basis of personal information they have already made public online.

«

I remember when it was Internet Explorer that got all the fun tools, and those of us on Safari got nothing. Now it’s Chrome.

Almost worth the trouble of using Chrome and Facebook to see what happens here. But: desktop-only, and as we know, mobile is becoming a majority of use, especially for Facebook.
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This thermostat wants to put Alexa in every room of your house • Buzzfeed

Nicole Nguyen:

»

Ecobee’s new smart thermostat now has an edge over its competition: a speaker, microphone, and Alexa built-in. The Ecobee4, a Wi-Fi–enabled device similar to Google’s Nest and Honeywell’s Lyric, is the first thermostat with Amazon’s voice-enabled Alexa software on board. It can understand “Alexa, turn down the temperature,” “Alexa, read me the news,” and hundreds of other prompts primed for Amazon’s voice assistant.

Another feature that sets Ecobee apart from other smart thermostats is that it works with small, floss-sized individual room sensors (up to 32). The sensors, which can be affixed to a wall or stand on their own, detect each room’s occupancy and temperature so Ecobee can better manage a home’s hot and cold spots. The central thermostat and its sensors communicate with each other to determine whether you’re actually at home and where you are in your house — better than other thermostats with a single hub, according to Ecobee — and adjusts the temperature accordingly. That way, you can save money on your energy bill by not running the AC or heat while you’re away.

In addition to the Ecobee4, the company is also launching new smart light switches that double (triple?) as an Ecobee room sensor and Alexa speaker in one. The light switches, which will be available later this year and are sold separately (price has not been announced), connect to Wi-Fi, so you can turn off your kitchen lights remotely with your phone.

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Ecobee’s CEO points out that very few of the many things promised at CES to work with Alexa have actually reached the market: integration is difficult.

Also see Terence Eden’s struggles to create a “skill” for Alexa, which opens with the phrase “a pain in the arse to get anything done”. And note that Eden has to program every single possible query phrase for the task he wants to trigger. “This isn’t AI,” as he comments.
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Companies decry Trump plan to eliminate Energy Star program • Associated Press

Matthew Daly:

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Companies including United Technologies Corp., Ingersoll Rand and Staples call the program a model for successful collaboration between the public and private sectors.

In a letter to the Trump administration and congressional leaders, the companies say Energy Star “should be strengthened, not weakened” to encourage businesses and consumers to conserve energy.

United Technologies is the parent company of Carrier heating and cooling, Otis elevators and Pratt & Whitney engines, while Ingersoll Rand is the parent of Trane heating and cooling. Other companies signing the letter include LG Electronics USA, Panasonic Corp. of North America, Samsung Electronics America and Nest thermostats, owned by Google.

Energy Star, begun in 1992, is known for its blue-and-white star logo that appears on hundreds of products from washing machines to furnaces and computers. The program costs about $50m per year to administer, while saving consumers more than $34bn per year in reduced energy costs.

The White House proposed eliminating the program, along with other programs at the Environmental Protection Agency, in its 2018 budget plan.

“I don’t know who recommended shutting down this program to the president, but I can assure you it was bad advice that would hurt American businesses, consumers and our overall economy,” said Kateri Callahan, president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington-based advocacy group.

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I’m guessing that the argument for eliminating is that, hey, the companies can do their snowflake-y energy efficiency stuff themselves. The argument against eliminating is that it provides an independent verification, encouraging and demonstrating energy efficiency.
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An ER doctor’s final frontier: tricorders could be coming to a sick bay near you • Salon.com

Angelo Young:

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in 2012, [ER doctor Basil] Harris urged his siblings to found Philadelphia-based Final Frontier Medical Devices and help him design a device that could more easily enable people to regularly collect their vital signs and other health data and to store and compile the data in a way that could assist doctors in prescribing treatments.

A year into his project, Harris had an epiphany while reading an article about the Qualcomm Tricorder XPrize contest, which challenged innovators in the medical community to build a device similar to the medical tricorder, the fictional hand-held scanner used by the cantankerous Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy (originally played by DeForest Kelley) in the “Star Trek” franchise.

It was a no-brainer.

Harris, who comes from a self-described family of sci-fi geeks, entered the contest and his team continued to work nights and weekends on DxtER (pronounced Dexter), a tablet-based system that uses several biological sensors and analytic software that can track vital signs and uncover medical conditions — 34 in all, from diabetes and pulmonary diseases to tuberculosis and Hepatitis A.

The work on DxtER paid off this month when Harris and his brother George, a computer network engineer, led the seven-member team to victory in the international contest, beating runner up Dynamical Biomarkers Group., a Taiwan-based team led by Harvard Medical School professor Chung-Kang Peng.

The Pennsylvania-based team walked away with $2.6m in prize money as well as extra cash to further develop DxtER for the marketplace with the help of University of California, San Diego’s Altman Clinical and Translational Research Institute.

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This contest has been a long time coming: I recall speaking to some of the funders back in 2013. It’s way harder than it looks – partly because, to quote another TV doctor, everyone lies (about their symptoms) – but the physical data alone don’t tell the whole story. The interview with Harris in the story is enlightening on this front.
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Mark Zuckerberg – Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen… • Facebook

»

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen people hurting themselves and others on Facebook — either live or in video posted later. It’s heartbreaking, and I’ve been reflecting on how we can do better for our community.

If we’re going to build a safe community, we need to respond quickly. We’re working to make these videos easier to report so we can take the right action sooner — whether that’s responding quickly when someone needs help or taking a post down.

Over the next year, we’ll be adding 3,000 people to our community operations team around the world — on top of the 4,500 we have today — to review the millions of reports we get every week, and improve the process for doing it quickly.

These reviewers will also help us get better at removing things we don’t allow on Facebook like hate speech and child exploitation. And we’ll keep working with local community groups and law enforcement who are in the best position to help someone if they need it — either because they’re about to harm themselves, or because they’re in danger from someone else.

In addition to investing in more people, we’re also building better tools to keep our community safe.

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Maths: they’re going from 4,500 people to 7,500 people. That roughly halves the workload for each person. Millions of reports per week means a minimum (1m/wk) of 143,000 per day; if 10m, then 1.43m per day; if 100m, then 14.3m per day.

1m per day among 4,500 is an average of 32 per day, or 4 per hour. 10m is 40 per hour (two every three minutes). 100m is 400 per hour. Though the number of reports might be “bursty” – quieter when Asia is awake, busier when the US is awake. Maybe it peaks at twice or three times the mean.

Upping the workforce is going to roughly halve that, in theory. (Though there might be more complaints.) And the workforce is being upped because, clearly, they aren’t getting to reports fast enough. Which suggests that the reports are more towards the upper end than the lower.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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