Start Up: the troll habit, Deezer buying SoundCloud?, LeEco fizzling out, OLED for all!, and more


What happens to Apple Pay’s implementation if you don’t have TouchID on the front of an iPhone? Photo by tuaulamac on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Please clean up your GIFs after use. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Staring down internet trolls: my disturbing cat and mouse game • Sydney Morning Herald

Ginger Gorman has been hassled by trolls in the past, but persists in wanting to track down and talk to them:

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something bloody-minded within me can’t let it go. My job is to report and trolls like Mark are a risk to public safety. Maybe if I ask enough questions – or ask the right questions – I’ll understand this. Maybe if I reveal his game plan, we’ll all be safer.

The truth, though, is far less convenient than this and I’ve paid the price for my idealism. He’s hurting other people, and I can’t stop him. The more I know about him, the less I understand.

“Because it’s funny,” he says by way of explanation for the trolling, and it provides him “entertainment”.

He says: “I don’t really have emotions that much. I have emotions but nothing to do with regretting stuff and that field of emotions [including] sadness.”

This unsatisfactory answer leaves the notion of “morals” hanging limply between us.

“I don’t think it’s morally OK,” he says.

“Morals don’t come into it. I know everything I do is wrong.”

With some hesitation, I contact him to speak on camera. He agrees and meets me on time.

Perhaps because there’s a camera present, he’s less effusive than normal. He leans back in the chair in an apparent attempt to look relaxed. His answers are short and there’s a scratchiness about him.

Before the tape starts rolling and, out of earshot of the cameraman, he snaps: “If I’m going to be anonymous, I don’t see why you even need to interview me on camera.”

When we first spoke, Mark spent up to 14 hours a week trolling people. These days, he tells me, it’s more like 30 hours a week. His psychopathic tendencies are getting worse as he gets older.

“Have you ever read some of my stuff on the internet?” he boasts during yet another interview that we conduct by phone. “I’m one of the biggest narcissists on the planet.”

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Narcissistic, lacking empathy; an ASD (autistic spectrum disorder) sociopath. Before the internet, he was just one of those people who’d injure the neighbour’s cat under cover of night.
link to this extract


Microsoft’s chatbot Zo calls the Qur’an violent and has theories about Bin Laden • Buzzfeed

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More than a year after Microsoft shut down its Tay chatbot for becoming a vile, racist monster, the company is having new problems with a similar bot named Zo, which recently told a BuzzFeed News reporter the Qur’an is “very violent.” Although Microsoft programmed Zo to avoid discussing politics and religion, the chatbot weighed in on this, as well as Osama bin Laden’s capture, saying it “came after years of intelligence gathering under more than one administration.”

BuzzFeed News contacted Microsoft regarding these interactions, and the company said it’s taken action to eliminate this kind of behavior. Microsoft said its issue with Zo’s controversial answers is that they wouldn’t encourage someone to keep engaging with the bot. The company also said these types of responses are rare for Zo. The bot’s characterization of the Qur’an came in just its fourth message after a BuzzFeed News reporter started a conversation.

Zo’s rogue activity is evidence Microsoft is still having trouble corralling its AI technology. The company’s previous English-speaking chatbot, Tay, flamed out in spectacular fashion last March when it took less than a day to go from simulating the personality of a playful teen to a Holocaust-denying menace trying to spark a race war.

Zo uses the same technological backbone as Tay, but Microsoft says Zo’s technology is more evolved. Microsoft doesn’t talk much about the technology inside — “that’s part of the special sauce,” the company told BuzzFeed News when asked how Tay worked last year.

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Um. The Qur’an is violent, in parts; so is the Bible. (Latter contains scenes which may be unsuitable for children, involving human sacrifice, human death by transmogrification into salt, and depictions of extended fasting which may be unsuitable for those of an anorexic disposition.) And the Bin Laden stuff is very uncontroversial.

Chatbots are overrated, but there’s actually nothing dramatic here.
link to this extract


How Soundcloud could transform Deezer’s market narrative • MIDiA Research

Rumours have emerged that Deezer (very much third place in music streaming subscribers behind Spotify and Apple Music) might buy Soundcloud, notes Mark Mulligan:

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Soundcloud first rose to prominence as a platform for artists before it rocketed into the stratosphere as a consumer destination with its new VC-powered mission statement ‘to be the YouTube of audio’. The legacy of its unique starting point is that Soundcloud:

• Has a catalogue unlike any other streaming service, except YouTube (and to a lesser extent, Mixcloud)
• Gives artists a direct connection with fans unlike standard streaming services
• Gives up and coming artists a global platform for reaching fans with no intermediary

That unique combination of assets makes Soundcloud a highly valuable commodity despite its diminished user base and similarly reduced valuation (now said to be around $250 from a high of $1 billion). Soundcloud has two crucial attributes that will enrich any streaming service:

• A service tailor-made for Gen Z (ie those consumers currently aged 19 or under)
• A crowd sourced platform for artist discovery

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SoundCloud certainly has value – the problem is turning that into profit. Certainly additive to Deezer, though it’s unclear whether that is making money either. SoundCloud might be the magic business enzyme to make it all happen, perhaps.
link to this extract


All 2017 iPhone models said to include standard 5W USB-A adapter, with wireless charger sold separately • Mac Rumors

Juli Clover:

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First and foremost, on the topic of Touch ID, Kuo’s note clearly says the iPhone 8 will not support fingerprint recognition, a prediction some MacRumors readers thought was ambiguous in the first post based on the included wording. Direct from the note:

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As the OLED iPhone will not support fingerprint recognition, we think it may have to rely on facial recognition to ensure security. As such, we believe Apple (US) will be very demanding as regards the quality of 3D sensing, thereby increasing the difficulties in hardware production and software design.

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Kuo’s claim has since been backed up by Bloomberg in a report suggesting Touch ID will be replaced by advanced facial recognition technology in the iPhone 8, lending more credence to Kuo’s prediction.

A second tidbit suggests the iPhone 8 and its companion devices, the “iPhone 7s” and the “iPhone 7s Plus” will all adopt glass bodies with metal frames to facilitate WPC-standard wireless charging functionality. WPC-standard refers to the Wireless Power Consortium, which supports the Qi wireless charging functionality built into many Android devices.

According to Kuo, wireless charging will be enabled through an optional accessory that will be purchased alongside the new iPhones — it won’t be a default feature available out of the box. Qi wireless charging is in line with rumors that have predicted the iPhone 8 will support inductive charging rather than a true wireless charging feature.

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One point: the Bloomberg story (by Mark Gurman, referenced here yesterday) did not say that there wouldn’t be TouchID on the front. It said there would be face unlock. Those are slightly different things.

Also, I just don’t see Apple giving up on fingerprint recognition. The TouchID interface is convenient, quick, natural (you hold the phone that way), personal. I could see an argument for moving it to the side, as some smartphone companies such as Sony have done: that’s also where you hold the phone. But getting rid of it altogether is retrograde in the extreme. As readers here have asked, what happens to Apple Pay, which has been activated by a double press on the home button since its inception in 2014? Putting fingerprint recognition (which banks demand) on the side would be strange. And how do you double press face recognition? It doesn’t make sense. (By contrast, the absence of a headphone jack had been presaged within the smartphone market for some time before the iPhone 7.)
link to this extract


LeEco chairman ‘has bank accounts frozen over debt’ • BBC News

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The billionaire co-founder of struggling Chinese technology giant LeEco has had personal assets frozen by a Shanghai court, state media reports.

Assets worth a combined 1.24bn yuan ($183m; £141m) belonging to Jia Yueting, his wife, and three affiliates have reportedly been blocked.

The ruling follows LeEco’s failure to pay interest due on bank loans taken out to fund its smartphone business.

Neither Mr Jia nor the company has commented on the reports.

LeEco was for a while known as the Netflix of China, a company that streamed content and eventually started making its own original material. But it then drew comparison with the likes of Apple and Tesla when it began branching out into hardware, including a smart TV, phones and electric cars.

LeEco started selling devices in the US at the tail end of last year, but is now facing a cash crunch and has been forced to slash costs, including making job cuts. Mr Jia, who resigned as chief executive in May but retains his position as chairman, recently admitted to shareholders that its financial problems were “more severe than we expected”.

In April, a $2bn deal to buy consumer electronics-maker Vizio was called off because of “regulatory headwinds”.

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Also: its Coolpad smartphone business lost $542m last year, according to unaudited results. LeEco is just awaiting the coup de grâce.
link to this extract


Official: firm at center of cyberattack knew of problems • Associated Press

Raphael Satter:

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The small Ukrainian tax software company that is accused of being the patient zero of a damaging global cyberepidemic is under investigation and will face charges, the head of Ukraine’s CyberPolice suggested Monday.

Col. Serhiy Demydiuk, the head of Ukraine’s national Cyberpolice unit, said in an interview with The Associated Press that Kiev-based M.E. Doc’s employees had blown off repeated warnings about the security of their information technology infrastructure.

“They knew about it,” he told the AP at his office. “They were told many times by various anti-virus firms. … For this neglect, the people in this case will face criminal responsibility.”

Demydiuk and other officials say last week’s unusually disruptive cyberattack [of the Petya ransomware] was mainly spread through a malicious update to M.E. Doc’s eponymous tax software program, which is widely used by accountants and businesses across Ukraine.

The malicious update, likely planted on M.E. Doc’s update server by a hacker, was then disseminated across the country before exploding into an epidemic of data-scrambling software that Ukrainian and several other multinational firms are still recovering from.

M.E. Doc initially denied playing any such role in the malicious software’s spread but later deleted the statement from Facebook. The company, which says it’s cooperating with authorities, has not returned messages seeking comment.

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One wonders where liability stops: if you get hacked and are used to spread malware, is it other peoples’ fault when they’re infected, or should they have taken precautions?
link to this extract


After Google, Apple rumored to invest in LG’s OLED operation • AndroidAuthority

Bogdan Petrovan:

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With 95% of the market in its grip, Samsung Display’s position as the superpower of OLED industry seems unassailable.

But competitors – chief among them LG Display – are arming themselves to challenge Samsung. Tens of billions are at stake, as the world’s top manufacturers vie to secure OLED screens for hundreds of millions of smartphones, tablets, and wearables.

LG Display is said to be in talks with Apple for a deal worth more than $2.5 billion that would see the Korean company dedicate an entire new OLED manufacturing line to the iPhone maker.

Apple could invest between $1.75bn and $2.62bn to fund LG Display’s upcoming E6 plant, industry sources told The Investor. LG is currently buying equipment that would allow it to produce up to 60,000 OLED panel substrates every month at the plant. The E6 facility would be LG’s third OLED plant. The company is already making flexible OLED displays for Apple Watch on a 4.5-gen pilot line, and is currently ramping up production at its E5 facility.

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Apple essentially spreading the risk, and giving itself some bargaining power against Samsung. Though not, one would think, a lot.
link to this extract


Sharp will launch a pair of completely bezeless devices on the 17th of July • Gizchina.com

“Airyl”:

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The race to become the first manufacturer to launch a completely bezeless device has officially ended, and the unexpected winner is Sharp. In a way, this probably should’ve been expected, seeing as Sharp were the ones who really kicked off the trend with the stunning Sharp Aquos Crystal years ago.

The brand new bezeless devices are the Sharp FS8016 and FS8010, two identical devices with different processors. Where the FS8016 features a Snapdragon 660 processor, the FS8010 will have a Snapdragon 330. They will come in two variants of 4GB and 6GB RAM, both paired with 64GB internal memory.

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They look a bit weird, to be honest. No indication of where the fingerprint reader (there will be one, yes, even though they’re midrange?) is – on the side, or the back? Not the front, anyway.
link to this extract


TrackID music recognition service closing down • Xperia Blog

“XB”:

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In an unexpected move, Sony Mobile will be closing its TrackID music discovery app on 15 September 2017. The reason for the closure hasn’t been given, with Sony simply saying that “all businesses move forwards, and sometimes this means that apps are discontinued”.

Unfortunately, this means that your TrackID history will also be lost after this date, so if this important to you, then you should find a means of recreating the list elsewhere. Sony is recommending users to try Shazam as its top pick in recognising music.

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TrackID has between 10m and 50m downloads on Google Play, so that’s surely millions of users who will be affected. Another sign of Sony cutting costs in mobile to improve the bottom line? A nice fillip for Shazam though.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: thanks to multiple readers who pointed out that Peter Smith, who tried to acquire alleged emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s private server (there’s no evidence the emails ever existed or any hack ever occurred), died soon after the Wall Street Journal article about him appeared.

This probably makes him what the FBI would call an “uncooperative” witness.

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