A selection of 10 links for you. No nuclear weapons were harmed in the making of this historic set of links. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.
In a rare rebuke of President Donald Trump, Republican Senate leaders set up a vote for this week that would undo the White House deal to revive Chinese telecommunications company ZTE Corp.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was on Capitol Hill late Monday to lobby against the move. But Democratic and Republican lawmakers said that an agreement had been reached to wrap into the National Defense Authorization Act an amendment that would ban ZTE from buying components from U.S. suppliers. The Commerce Department in mid-April had banned exports to the company as punishment for breaking a settlement to resolve sanctions-busting sales to North Korea and Iran.
In private meetings with Republicans last week, the president argued in favor of the agreement, which saved ZTE by allowing the Chinese company to resume buying components from U.S. suppliers.
The Trump administration agreed to lift the ban as part of a larger deal in which ZTE would pay a $1 billion fine and allow U.S. enforcement officers inside the company to monitor its actions. Cutting off access to U.S. components was essentially a death knell for the company.
The twists! The turns! Also: this “rebuke” of Trump is so rare it must have come in riding a unicorn with a dodo on its head.
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1. information from “computers, phones, connected TVs, and other web-connected devices,” as well as your “internet service provider or mobile operator”
2. “mouse movements” on your computer
3. “app and file names” (and the types of files) on your devices
4. whether the browser window with Facebook open is “foregrounded or backgrounded,” and time, frequency, and duration of activities
5. information about “nearby Wi-Fi access points, beacons, and cell towers” and “signal strength” to triangulate your location (“Connection information like your IP address or Wi-Fi connection and specific location information like your device’s GPS signal help us understand where you are,” said a Facebook spokesperson.)
6. information “about other devices that are nearby or on their network”
7. “battery level”
8. “available storage space”
9. installed “plugins”
10. “connection speed”
11. “purchases [users] make” on off-Facebook websites
12. contact information “such as an address book” and, for Android users, “call log or SMS log history” if synced, for finding “people they may know” (Here’s how to turn off contact uploading or delete contacts you’ve uploaded.)
13. information “about how users use features like our camera” (The Facebook spokesperson explained, “In order to provide features like camera effects, we receive what you see through camera, send to our server, and generate a mask/filter.”)
14. “location of a photo or the date a file was created” through the file’s metadata
15. information through your device’s settings, such as “GPS location, camera, or photos”
16. information about your “online and offline actions” and purchases from third-party data providers
17. “device IDs, and other identifiers, such as from games, apps or accounts users use”
18. “when others share or comment on a photo of them, send a message to them, or upload, sync or import their contact information”
And that’s apart from all the demographic and other intensely personal data they hold. This list was released to the US congress on Tuesday.
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Five years ago, a group of Duke University scientists developed a pioneering gigapixel camera to provide long-range surveillance for the U.S. Navy through a sponsorship from the Pentagon.
The technology, never picked up by the U.S. government, is now being used by Chinese police to identify people from nearly a football field away, after lead Duke researcher David Brady moved to China in 2016 to kick-start his business.
China’s easier access to startup funding, manufacturing supply chain and burgeoning demand for high-tech cameras attracted Mr. Brady, whose original venture in the U.S. failed to win over financial backers and customers. Within two years of the move to China, his company obtained enough funding to build its first commercial camera…
Mr. Wang helped land early investment from a former Shanghai government official who now runs a venture-capital fund. The investor, who said he had been searching for technologies he could bring back to China, invested almost $5 million in Aqueti. Mr. Wang said Aqueti has attracted about $28m in two rounds of fundraising—a far cry from the U.S., where Aqueti’s effort to raise $25,000 on crowdfunding site Kickstarter in 2013 yielded just $1,007.
To secure the investment, Mr. Brady, a professor in photonics at Duke’s campus in Kunshan, took a less conventional route. Rather than set up a joint venture, he packaged his original U.S. business into Aqueti China and obtained a license to use the camera technology, to which Duke owns the patent.
“Where else can we build these?” Mr. Brady said. “This is naturally a Chinese project.” In addition to the funding, the supply chain to make such cameras is in China, he added. “Even if you raised the money in the U.S., you uniformly spend the money in China.”
First, Plume is launching a more capable, tri-band router called the SuperPod. (Its normal router is called the Plume Pod.) It’s a bit bigger and a lot more expensive, and there isn’t much special about it on its own; most mesh systems offer both dual- and tri-band options at this point.
The bigger change is Plume’s business model, which is completely changing today. Previously, you would buy a Plume router (or several of them, since this is a mesh system) and go on your way, just as you would with every other router in existence. But that’s not the case anymore.
Now, you’ll have to subscribe to Plume’s Adaptive WiFi service before you can even buy a router. And once you own Plume routers, you’ll want to stay subscribed, or else the routers won’t work — period. (Existing Plume Pod owners will be grandfathered in.)
Plume’s subscription service will cost $60 per year, or $200 for a lifetime membership. One of the most tangible things you get for paying is reduced pricing on Plume’s routers, as well as a warranty for each year that you pay (lifetime members get a flat five years). Plume’s current routers come in a three-pack for $179. With the subscription, you can get a three-pack (that includes two dual-band and one tri-band router) for $39, which is a major discount. It still gets pricey if you want to buy more routers (especially tri-band units), but it’s still cheaper than buying this kind of router somewhere else.
My (and probably your) first reaction is: get stuffed, Plume. But think a little. Yes, this is expensive for a router. However, Plume by virtue of demanding the subscription is now responsible for keeping their software up to date – and in a world where routers are increasingly under attack, that is big shift.
My concern would be that your router, effectively under their care (it’s what the sub is for, right?) might get hacked, and that you’d be unable to get satisfactory redress. That would be amazingly annoying. On balance, might want to just stuck with the ordinary routers.
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A federal judge said Tuesday that AT&T’s $85.4bn purchase of Time Warner is legal, clearing the path for a deal that gives the pay-TV provider ownership of cable channels such as HBO and CNN as well as film studio Warner Bros.
The judge did not impose conditions on the merger’s approval.
The Justice Department sued last year to block the merger, citing concerns that AT&T, owner of satellite television provider DirecTV, could charge rival distributors more for Time Warner content, resulting in higher prices for consumers. But AT&T has countered that the logic doesn’t hold up since the point of owning content is to get widespread distribution, which brings in affiliate fees and advertising revenue.
US District Court Judge Richard Leon was expected to issue the decision following a six-week trial.
AT&T, also the No. 2 wireless carrier in the US, said it was buying Time Warner in October 2016 to diversify its revenues and also become a media powerhouse that could attract consumers by bundling entertainment with mobile service. CEO Randall Stephenson has said the deal would help AT&T compete against tech giants like Amazon and Netflix, which are investing more in content.
The outcome of the trial could have implications for future deals in the telecom and media industries, as well as vertical mergers, where a company buys its supplier.
AT&T’s point about content needing distribution is a strong one, but companies always want to turn into monopolies if they possibly can. It’s in their nature. Side note: once again Time Warner is the bride in a giant merger aimed at content and distribution; who can forget the doomed $165bn AOL-Time Warner merger of 2000? Maybe this will go the same way.
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Xiaomi Corp. revealed it lost more than $1bn in the first three months of 2018, as the Chinese smartphone maker prepares to persuade investors to buy into the largest initial public offering since 2014.
The eight-year-old company has begun gauging demand for a first-time share sale intended to fuel its expansion beyond China and bankroll the development of devices and media services. It also published its first prospectus for the sale of China Depositary Receipts in Shanghai on Monday, saying it plans to use about 40% of the proceeds to enlarge its global footprint. Xiaomi reported a 7bn yuan ($1.1bn) net loss on revenue of 34.4bn ($5.3bn) yuan in the first quarter…
…The Beijing-based company saw sales from more lucrative smart-home devices and internet services grow as a proportion of overall revenue in the first quarter. Roughly 31.8% of Xiaomi’s revenue in 2018’s first three months came from products such as air purifiers and scooters and online services such as mobile apps, according to the filing. Those two segments contributed 29% of sales in 2017.
Its biggest business, smartphones that barely make a profit, declined in importance to just 67.5% of sales from more than 70% in 2017. Xiaomi said it made a profit excluding one-time items of 1.038bn ($162m) yuan in the first quarter.
Estimates are that it could be valued at around $90bn. Personally, I don’t see what its moat is – what is there to stop its users drifting away to other brands, or alternatively to stop other brands moving into its space? It’s already losing out on its best-known space, smartphones. Though with a $3.3bn revenue, it’s a significant player, ahead of LG, Sony, Motorola/Lenovo, and other names.
The phones are pretty cheap, though. On that revenue, and Counterpoint’s figure of 27m shipped, the ASP is $122 – which doesn’t leave any room for error.
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Tesla is pushing a new update to its Autopilot cruise control system that “nags” drivers every 15 to 20 seconds if their hands are off the wheel, according to Tesla owners. The update also adds some performance improvements and bug fixes to the Autopilot system, but the addition of frequent nags is the big that’s already causing Tesla owners to complain.
Under the old system, drivers would still get an Autopilot “nag,” but the reminders were much less frequent. Drivers would be prompted to hold the steering wheel after five minutes if driving on a slow road, or after one to three minutes when going faster than 45mph.
Those “nags” kept Autopilot as a hands-free system in effect, just a more attentive one. More than anything, the nags served as a check that the drivers were paying attention, but it didn’t force drivers to have their hands constantly on the wheel. Under the new update, drivers will get a nag after just 15 seconds (the precise nag interval is reported as being anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds), which in practice means people will just keep their hands on the steering wheel. The steering system also appears to have got an update, so there’s a small amount of “play” in the wheel which drivers can wiggle to prove that they’re there, without overriding the Autopilot system and turning it off.
Users are already complaining about the nags…
Of course they are. But as Musk pointed out in reply to some of the complaints, if people get too complacent, then safety suffers. And Tesla needs to focus on safety after some high-profile crashes.
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Apple is redesigning chargers and related interface for its next-generation iPhone and iPad devices, and will likely have its 2019 series of iPhones come with USB Type-C support, according to sources at analog IC vendors.
The adoption of USB Type-C in Apple’s MacBook series has already encouraged other notebook vendors to follow suit. However, sales of their new models that come with a Type-C port have been affected negatively by a general slowdown in the global PC market.
Apple’s adoption of Type-C in its iPhones will accelerate other smartphone companies’ adoption of the interface in their products, the sources indicated. The popularity of Type-C interface among handsets will still depend on the adoption in Apple’s iPhones, nevertheless, the sources said.
Noooooooooooooooo. Also, With hundreds of millions of Lightning ports and cables out there, would Apple really do this? Apple laptops and desktops are one thing; they sell in comparatively small numbers – tens of millions per year. Would it really do it on phones, though? I’d have thought going for wireless charging on iPhones and iPads is far more likely, while retaining Lightning.
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The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter first spotted the beginnings of this super-storm on June 1st. The MRO team notified Opportunity’s controllers as soon as they saw how close it was to the rover. It didn’t take long for the dust storm to grow in size to cover more than 7 million square miles (11.2 million square kilometers), which is larger than North America. Stuck smack in the middle of it is Opportunity. The small blue dot in the below image of the storm (click to enlarge) indicates Opportunity’s location in Perseverance Valley.
This is a problem for the rover because unlike its younger cousin Curiosity, Opportunity is solar-powered. According to NASA, the opacity level or “tau” of the new storm is 10.8. That means very little light is reaching the surface. Opportunity reported a significant drop in battery charge last Wednesday, so NASA suspended science operations and placed the rover in low power mode.
The good news is Opportunity made contact with NASA over the weekend to confirm that it’s still operational. At the time, the rover reported an internal temperature of -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29C). In low power mode, the rover conserves power to make sure its heaters remain active. Without the heaters, the rover’s batteries would likely fail and doom the mission.
Anyway, to get back to the subject of our talk today… who wants to get on Elon Musk’s missions to Mars?
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Consumers are becoming more sensitive to companies’ aggressive tracking of their online behavior. That tracking is beginning to affect consumers’ expectation of privacy.
Our research shows that consumers don’t seem to mind seeing ads on Facebook. They even indicated some level of gratitude when they found a new product or service on Facebook that fit their interests. But consumers feel that Facebook crosses the “creepy” line when it targets its ads using personal information it gleaned outside of Facebook. To this point, 58% of consumers in our study said they’re less than comfortable with how good Facebook has become at tracking their general online activity.
It’s here I believe the technology industry needs to start a broader conversation on privacy. The industry may need provide some protections for consumers who do not want their non-public online behavior to be tracked by companies like Facebook and Google. Any regulation of Facebook and companies like it should focus on this. Perhaps some consumer data should be off-limits to companies like Facebook and Google even if that activity happens on their own platforms.
Consumers are becoming more aware of the sophisticated tracking and ad-targeting technology used by Facebook, Google, and others have become. That awareness is raising privacy concerns.
No, people will not leave Facebook in droves. But people may start using Facebook less, as 45% of our study respondents said they were. Or more consumers may change their privacy settings and on-Facebook practices to limit how much information they share. Our survey found that 39% of consumers had already changed their Facebook privacy settings because of privacy concerns.
Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified
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