Start Up: iPhones assemble (all at once)!, tracking tablets, Trump’s fake follower, proper passwords, and more


When women were the “computers”: what discouraged them? Photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center 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.

‘iPhone 8’ to enter mass production in mid-Sept., launch alongside ‘iPhone 7s,’ come in 3 colours • Apple Insider

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Rumors about an “iPhone 8” delay may have been unfounded, as analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities indicated on Tuesday that the flagship handset will launch on the same day as the “iPhone 7s” and “iPhone 7s Plus” —albeit in limited quantities and styles.

Kuo’s supply chain rumblings were shared in a research note obtained by AppleInsider. The KGI analyst, who has a strong track record in predicting Apple’s future product plans, indicated that the handset will come in just three colors: black, silver and gold.

Kuo said that all three new iPhones will be announced simultaneously in September, and will share the same launch date. However, he indicated that the so-called “iPhone 8” will be in extremely short supply at launch, with the supply chain expected to produce between 2 million and 4 million units this quarter.

According to Kuo, all of this fall’s new iPhone models will support fast charging. However, consumers may have to opt to spend extra on a Lighting-to-USB-C cable and wall adapter to utilize it —the same approach Apple already takes with the iPad Pro.

He expects production of the “iPhone 8,” which some have taken to calling an “iPhone Pro,” will ramp up quickly, reaching between 45 million and 50 million units this year.

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What happened is that Kuo saw Apple’s forward guidance, as did everyone else, which forecasts a healthy few metric tonnes of iPhones being sold in the next quarter, and concluded that Apple is confident of getting the top-end OLED phone out with the other two LCD ones.

So that’s something to look forward to.
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When women stopped coding • Planet Money • NPR

Steve Henn:

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Modern computer science is dominated by men. But it hasn’t always been this way.

A lot of computing pioneers — the people who programmed the first digital computers — were women. And for decades, the number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men. But in 1984, something changed. The percentage of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged, even as the share of women in other technical and professional fields kept rising.

What happened?

We spent the past few weeks trying to answer this question, and there’s no clear, single answer.

But here’s a good starting place: The share of women in computer science started falling at roughly the same moment when personal computers started showing up in U.S. homes in significant numbers…

…This idea that computers are for boys became a narrative. It became the story we told ourselves about the computing revolution. It helped define who geeks were, and it created techie culture.

Movies like Weird Science, Revenge of the Nerds and War Games all came out in the ’80s. And the plot summaries are almost interchangeable: awkward geek boy genius uses tech savvy to triumph over adversity and win the girl.

In the 1990s, researcher Jane Margolis interviewed hundreds of computer science students at Carnegie Mellon University, which had one of the top programs in the country. She found that families were much more likely to buy computers for boys than for girls — even when their girls were really interested in computers.

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Note to employees from CEO Sundar Pichai • Google blog

Pichai delayed his holiday to deal with the fallout from “that memo”:

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Our job is to build great products for users that make a difference in their lives. To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects “each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination.”

The memo has clearly impacted our co-workers, some of whom are hurting and feel judged based on their gender. Our co-workers shouldn’t have to worry that each time they open their mouths to speak in a meeting, they have to prove that they are not like the memo states, being “agreeable” rather than “assertive,” showing a “lower stress tolerance,” or being “neurotic.”

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The employee was fired because “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

I wrote about this for CNN:

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Amid the furor around the Google “man-ifesto” — the male author of which, James Damore, has since left the company after his 10-page thinkpiece on why women aren’t that well suited for coding went viral — there’s one question that nobody seems to have asked.

Why haven’t we heard about any internal pro-diversity manifestos written by women within Google? Or within Uber? Or any of the scores of Silicon Valley companies?

They must exist. Google employs thousands of women, from its chief financial officer Ruth Porat down, and some of them must have thoughts about how to increase the pool of talent from which to draw its future managers and leaders. (Porat, one should acknowledge, was hired from outside.) So why haven’t we heard about them?

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One other point: the case brought by the US Department of Labor seeking lots of data about Google’s pay to its staff has been reined in by the judge, who says the DoL demands were overbroad, intrusive and insufficiently focussed.
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Tablet screen size trend • ScientiaMobile

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Two screen sizes segments clearly emerge from the tablet group:

1) full-size, larger tablets (over 9in diagonal screen size), and

2) smaller “mini” tablets (less than 9in diagonal screen size).

The full size segment is the largest market. In particular, the full-size 9.5in to 10in segment has grown from 46.6% in 2014 to 53.6% in 2017 Q2. The largest sizes – over 11in – have not grown. In fact, despite Apple iPad’s power in the market, the larger iPad Pro versions do not seem to have gained much market share.

Back in 2014, the 7-7.5″ was the largest portion of Mini tablet market. Now in 2017, the smaller “mini” segment has shifted away from the 7in to 7.5in size and is predominated by the 7.5in to 8in size. The 7.5in to 8in segment holds 31.8% of the traffic in 2017 Q2.

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What’s surprising is how the “mini” (8in and below) section has remained roughly static as a share of the whole: about 40%. Apple is effectively discouraging people from buying the iPad mini (7.9in) through its pricing: you can now get a 9.7in iPad for less.
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How Trump fell for fake news • Yahoo News

Rick Newman and Jennifer Rogers:

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Yahoo Finance ordered a flag from ProTrump45.com to see if it would arrive as promised in 7 to 10 days. The site took our money, through a PayPal account — $30 for the flag, $15 for shipping and $2.40 for tax, for a total of $47.40. But no flag ever arrived. We did get a notice, however, saying, “Your order is on its way,” along with a UPS tracking number. When we contacted UPS, a spokesman told us the tracking number was bogus and the order had been “stopped as fraud.” We did a “who is” search looking up registration details for the Web site and found it had been registered anonymously through a Florida company called Perfect Privacy, essentially masking the site’s real owners.

The emailed order confirmation from ProTrump45 did contain one curious clue, however: an email address that belonged to a student at St. Peter’s University, a small Jesuit school in Jersey City, N.J. An August 5 story on heavy.com, which first raised questions about whether Nicole Mincey was a real person, said the student had been a victim of identity theft who planned to file a police report. But in a phone conversation with Yahoo Finance, the student told us she had been involved with ProTrump45 web site as a blogger and had been recruited to the effort by two people, “Lorraine Elijah” and “Dr. William Byrd,” who followed her on Instagram and invited her to join the Web operation sometime this past spring.

“I joined a group of people online who supported Trump,” the student told Yahoo Finance. “We came up with this idea to make some money off of this. We bought advertising. We bought articles.” The way to make money was selling Trump merchandise on ProTrump45 — hats, T-shirts, flags. The Twitter account would drive traffic to the Web site. “I think Lorraine” — the web site operator who had recruited the student on Instagram — “bought followers for us,” the student said. “I don’t even have the Twitter app on my phone.”

Yahoo Finance chose not to identify the student, who says she has hopes for a successful business career and would suffer if negative publicity linking her to a suspicious Web site and twitter account were irrevocably published on the Internet. Her name is not Nicole Mincey, but there are similarities between the fake name and the real one. We have not been able to independently verify what the student told us.

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It’s that last sentence that’s the killer. Can nobody get into a car or on a metro and head for New Jersey? Read on for another example of the same stuff.
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I found Nicole Mincey, Trump’s biggest Twitter fan. She isn’t a bot, but she has a ton of secrets • Daily Beast

Ben Collins used Twitter and Facebook to get in touch with the woman who Trump apparently retweeted; she offered to phone him back:

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About a half-hour later, Nicole Mincy [note the spelling; her real name] called me. The group, she said, was about “10 of us.” They were just called ProTrump45, “full of people with Republican opinions.”

The group reached out to Nicole in January through her Instagram, where she had been posting pro-Trump memes and the occasional picture of herself. It was a woman named Lorraine, specifically, who asked her to join ProTrump45’s blog. Lorraine, she said, was from Texas, and there was another guy named William. Lorraine was selling clothes and writing blogs on ProTrump45.com and they wanted Nicole to help.

“I was the one writing the blog posts. I wrote, like, the second most blogs,” she said.

Lex, the Twitter model from North Arlington? Not real. That’s Lorraine, she said. So is David from South Carolina. So is Chinami, the supposed legal immigrant.

All of @protrump45’s Twitter followers were entirely invented, except for her and a woman named Mary Mack, who went by @MtSaintMarys on Twitter, she said. That account is now suspended for using a stock photo.

Nicole doesn’t even have a Twitter account of her own, she said. Just an Instagram and a Facebook account.

That’s why she and Lorraine and William had a big falling out. They started using Nicole’s identity, and college address, for ProTrump45 business, she claimed.

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What’s unsatisfactory about this is that even now, with all the hot takes, nobody has actually *met* this woman. Collins follows all the available leads; they’re all dead ends. In this situation, follow the money. Nobody seems to have done that with any success yet.
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No, smartphones are not destroying a generation • Psychology Today

Sarah Rose Cavanagh PhD:

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A recent article by psychologist Jean Twenge in the Atlantic warns that “the twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever” and that “it’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades. Much of this deterioration can be traced to their phones.”

The articles has been scattered prolifically all over my Twitter and Facebook, with parents crowing, “I KNEW IT!” and popular newsmedia wringing their hands.

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She details why she disagrees, on three key points. And finally:

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Yes, we should practice (and preach to our children) moderation in all things, our digital lives included. Yes, we should conduct careful research studies into the effects of “screentime” on developing minds, and we should be open to what those data say. Yes, we should be concerned about adolescent depression and investigate its causes. Yes, we should put down our phones once in awhile and take a walk in the damn woods.

But my suspicion is that the kids are gonna be ok.

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As I said, I want to know what the effect on infants will be of mothers who ignore them for their black slabs.

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The man who wrote those password rules has a new tip: N3v$r M1^d! • WSJ

Robert McMillan spoke to Bill Burr, who wrote the 2003 advice on passwords – change regularly, use capitals and odd characters:

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“Much of what I did I now regret,” said Mr. Burr, 72 years old, who is now retired.

In June, Special Publication 800-63 got a thorough rewrite, jettisoning the worst of these password commandments. Paul Grassi, an NIST standards-and-technology adviser who led the two-year-long do-over, said the group thought at the outset the document would require only a light edit.

“We ended up starting from scratch,” Mr. Grassi said.

The new guidelines, which are already filtering through to the wider world, drop the password-expiration advice and the requirement for special characters, Mr. Grassi said. Those rules did little for security—they “actually had a negative impact on usability,” he said.

Long, easy-to-remember phrases now get the nod over crazy characters, and users should be forced to change passwords only if there is a sign they may have been stolen, says NIST, the federal agency that helps set industrial standards in the U.S.

Amy LaMere had long suspected she was wasting her time with the hour a month it takes to keep track of the hundreds of passwords she has to juggle for her job as a client-resources manager with a trade-show-display company in Minneapolis. “The rules make it harder for you to remember what your password is,” she said. “Then you have to reset it and it just makes it take longer.”

When informed that password advice is changing, however, she wasn’t outraged. Instead, she said it just made her feel better. “I’m right,” she said of the previous rules. “It just doesn’t make sense.”

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Rainbow tables will now have to include “correct horse battery staple”. It turns out too that Burr wrote the guidelines with minimal empirical evidence about what was and wasn’t hard to remember, and to crack.

Wonder how long it will take this advice to filter down, though. 10 years? 15?
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Researchers trick self-driving car cameras using stickers • CNet Roadshow

Andrew Krok:

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Researchers created two different sorts of attacks on a self-driving car’s systems, using a whole lot of math and a little bit of printing. It involves gaining access to a car’s classifier, a part within its vision system that tells the car what an object is and what it means to the vehicle. If the car’s cameras detect an object, it’s up to the classifier to determine how the car handles said object.

The first kind of attack involves printing out a life-size copy of a road sign and taping it over an existing one. A right-turn sign with a sort of grayed-out, pixelated arrow confused the system into believing it was either a stop sign or an added-lane sign, but not a right-turn sign. Thus, a confused vehicle may attempt to stop when it does not need to, causing additional confusion on the road.

The second kind of attack involved small stickers that give off a sort of abstract-art look. These rectangular stickers, in black and white, tricked the system into believing the stop sign was a 45-mph speed limit sign. It should be fairly obvious that nothing good can come from telling a car to hustle through an intersection at speed, as opposed to stopping like usual.

Of course, this all hinges on whether or not malicious parties have access to a vehicle system’s classifier, which may be the same across different automakers if they all purchase their systems from a single supplier.

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VPN provider accused of sharing customer traffic with online advertisers • Bleeping Computer

Catalin Cimpanu:

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On Monday, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) — a US-based privacy group — filed a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accusing one of today’s top VPN providers of deceptive trade practices.

In a 14-page complaint, the CDT accuses AnchorFree — the company behind the Hotspot Shield VPN — of breaking promises it made to its users by sharing their private web traffic with online advertisers for the purpose of improving the ads shown to its users.

Currently, Hotspot Shield is offered as a free and paid product. The free product injects ads in users’ web traffic, and the elite version provides an ad-free VPN experience. The company has always been upfront with this policy, and in an interview with ZDNet last year, AnchorFree’s CEO said that 97% of its estimated 500,000 userbase is using his company’s free VPN service.

In its complaint to the FTC, the CDT is not accusing Anchor Free of secretly injecting ads, as users are well aware of this practice, but of not respecting promises made to its customers.

More specifically, the CDT says that AnchorFree does not respect a pledge made in marketing materials that it won’t track or sell customer information.

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Public works funding falls as infrastructure deteriorates • The New York Times

Binyamin Appelbaum:

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It’s basically the opposite of a major government infrastructure program.

Government spending on transportation and other public works is in decline as federal funding stagnates and state and local governments tighten their belts.

Such spending equaled 1.4% of the nation’s economic output in the second quarter of 2017, the lowest level on record, according to Census Bureau data.

In West Virginia, where President Trump on Thursday touted a vague $1 trillion infrastructure plan, public works spending has fallen for five straight years.

Nate Orders, who runs a construction company founded by his grandfather to build bridges for the state, said he had been forced to scramble for other kinds of business. Only three of the 15 projects on his current slate are bridges in West Virginia.

“My grandfather would not recognize the business we have today,” he said.

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Absolute spending is lower than in 2007 in 34 US states. The country is falling apart. And yet it’s hard to find workers because employment in general is at such a high level. And there’s nothing happening with the Trump budget on that front.
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Game of Thrones stars’ personal details leaked as HBO hackers demand ransom • The Guardian

Samuel Gibbs:

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In a five-minute video letter from somebody calling themselves “Mr Smith” to HBO chief executive Richard Plepler, the hackers told the company to pay within three days or they would put online the HBO shows and confidential corporate data they claim to have stolen.

The hackers claim to have taken 1.5TB of data – the equivalent to several TV series box sets or millions of documents – but HBO said that it doesn’t believe its email system as a whole has been compromised, although it did acknowledge the theft of “proprietary information”.

HBO said it is continuing to investigate and is working with police and cybersecurity experts.

The hackers demanded “our six-month salary in bitcoin”, claiming they earn $12m to $15m a year from blackmailing organisations whose networks they have breached. They said they would only deal directly with “Richard” and only send one “letter” detailing how to pay.

Along with the video, the hackers released 3.4GB of files. The dump contained technical data detailing HBO’s internal network and administrator passwords, draft scripts from five Game of Thrones episodes, including this week’s instalment, and a month’s worth of emails from HBO’s vice president for film programming, Leslie Cohen.

The hackers claim it took six months to break into HBO’s network, and that they spend $500,000 a year purchasing so called zero-day exploits that let them break into networks through holes not yet known to Microsoft and other software companies.

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So professional hackers, as I said last week; but the addition of the ransom, which is new, changes the game somewhat. The problem for the organisation about ransomed digital data is: if you pay up, how do you know they won’t spread it anyway?
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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