Start Up No.900: iPhone and Watch images leak, what Trump told Kim, Magic Leap tried out, consumer genomics is coming for you, and more

Apple’s got a shiny shindig coming up in September. Photo by Shinya Suzuki on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Also: Friday! I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How Facebook has flattened human communication • Medium

David Auerbach is a writer and software engineer:


The conclusions and impact of data analyses more often flow from the classifications under which the data has been gathered than from the data itself. When Facebook groups people together in some category like “beer drinkers” or “fashion enthusiasts,” there isn’t some essential trait to what unifies the people in that group. Like Google’s secret recipe, Facebook’s classification has no actual secret to it. It is just an amalgam of all the individual factors that, when summed, happened to trip the category detector. Whatever it was that caused Facebook to decide I had an African-American “ethnic affinity” (was it my Sun Ra records?), it’s not anything that would clearly cause a human to decide that I have such an affinity.

What’s important, instead, is that such a category exists, because it dictates how I will be treated in the future. The name of the category — whether “African American,” “ethnic minority,” “African descent,” or “black” — is more important than the criteria for the category. Facebook’s learned criteria for these categories would significantly overlap, yet the ultimate classification possesses a distinctly different meaning in each case. But the distinction between criteria is obscured. We never see the criteria, and very frequently this criteria is arbitrary or flat-out wrong. The choice of classification is more important than how the classification is performed.

Here, Facebook and other computational classifiers exacerbate the existing problems of provisional taxonomies. The categories of the DSM dictated more about how a patient population was seen than the underlying characteristics of each individual, because it was the category tallies that made it into the data syntheses. One’s picture of the economy depends more on how unemployment is defined (whether it includes people who’ve stopped looking for a job, part-time workers, temporary workers, etc.) than it does on the raw experiences and opinions of citizens.


His “laws of internet data”, set out in this piece (which is an extract from his forthcoming book BITWISE), are terrific too.
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Exclusive: Apple Watch Series 4 revealed — massive display, dense watch face, more • 9to5Mac

Zac Hall:


In addition to discovering exclusive iPhone XS details today, 9to5Mac can exclusively share the first look at the new Apple Watch Series 4. This is the new Apple Watch that we believe Apple will unveil at its special event announced earlier today.

The biggest change is the all-new edge-to-edge display. Apple has been rumored to be working on ~15% bigger displays for both sizes of Apple Watch — that rumor has been confirmed in the images we’ve discovered. As expected, Apple has achieved this by dramatically reducing the bezel size around the watch display.

In addition to taking the display edge-to-edge, we’re also looking at a brand new watch face capable of showing way more information than the current faces offered. The analog watch face shows a total of eight complications around the time and within the clock hands. While we haven’t seen a new digital face yet, it’s likely that Apple has designed more new watch faces to take advantage of the larger display.


I like the complications (the extra bits on the watch face). And that’s definitely a bigger display, though the same size body (you can tell from the watch strap).

Love to know where they found the marketing images, since they’re insisting these are not mockups.
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Exclusive: this is ‘iPhone XS’ — design, larger version, and gold colors confirmed • 9to5Mac

Guilherme Rambo:


Earlier today Apple officially announced when and where it will hold its next big event. Apple’s September 12th event is expected to include the introduction of three new iPhones, and 9to5Mac can exclusively share the first look at both new 5.8in and 6.5in OLED iPhones: the iPhone XS.

We believe that the new 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch iPhones will both be called iPhone XS. We also believe iPhone XS will come in a new gold color option not previously offered on the new design. Apple leaked its own gold version of the iPhone X through the FCC, but it has not been available to purchase.

Other details are still to be determined, but we can report with certainty that iPhone XS will be the name, the OLED model will come in two sizes including a larger version, and each will be offered in gold for the first time.


Follow the link: they definitely look like phones. They have nice wallpaper though.
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Exclusive: Trump told Kim Jong Un in Singapore he’d declare end to Korean War • Vox

Alex Ward:


President Donald Trump told North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their Singapore summit in June that he’d sign a declaration to end the Korean War soon after their meeting, according to multiple sources familiar with the negotiations.

But since then, the Trump administration has repeatedly asked Pyongyang to dismantle most of its nuclear arsenal first, before signing such a document.

That decision is likely what has led to the current stalemate in negotiations between the two countries — and the increasingly hostile rhetoric from North Korea.

“It makes sense why the North Koreans are angry,” one source told me. “Having Trump promise a peace declaration and then moving the goalposts and making it conditional would be seen as the US reneging on its commitments.”

Here’s the background: North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, which started the war. The United States, as part of a United Nations force, intervened on behalf of South Korea, and China later intervened on behalf of the communist North. It was a bloody conflict that ultimately killed some 5 million soldiers and civilians.

Fighting ceased in 1953, but the warring parties only signed an armistice — a truce — which means the war technically continues to this day. Both Koreas still have troops and weaponry at or near the border, known as the Demilitarized Zone. This is one major reason North Korea has oriented its foreign policy around how to deter a future attack by the United States and South Korea, mostly by developing a strong nuclear program that includes around 65 nuclear warheads and missiles that can reach all parts of the US mainland…

…in the agreement Kim and Trump signed after their summit, two items about establishing peace between the two countries came before a denuclearization commitment, which helps explain why North Korea thinks a peace declaration should come before nuclear concessions.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has repeatedly asked Pyongyang to hand over 60 to 70% of its nuclear warheads within six to eight months.


Trump is such an idiot. He thought he could get the most paranoid nuclear dictator in the world to fall for a bait-and-switch? So that’s the end of that. North Korea will go back to underground trading with China, Russia and Iran.
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Video game music is just as good an introduction to classical music for children as a concert, arts chief says • Daily Telegraph

Camilla Turner:


James Williams, managing director at the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO), said that computer games are an important  “access point” for youngsters to experience classical music for the first time.

“I think exposure to orchestral music in all its forms is a fantastic thing,” he said. “It is encouraging to hear that there are platforms and opportunities for young people to engage with orchestral music, albeit in different mediums.  It is about sparking their interest.

“What we are finding is once we have lit that fire there is a real desire to carry that journey on and explore.If [computer games] are the trigger and the catalyst that can only be a really positive thing.”

The RPO commissioned a survey where children aged six to 16 were asked about how they encounter classical music. Just under one in six (15%) said they listen to classical music “when it’s part of a computer game I’m playing”, compared to just 11% who said “when I go to music concerts”.

The most popular ways in which children experience classical music were via film soundtracks, followed by television, according to the YouGov poll.

Mr Williams said that computer game music is now “recognised as an art form in its own right”, with some “very prestigious” composers involved.

“This is a very big industry now, all the major gaming companies commission their own music and they often have their own in house composers,” Mr Williams told The Daily Telegraph. “The church and the royal court were the two major sponsors of music hundreds of years ago. Now music is being created in different enterprises and genres.”


My teen boys listen to video game music even if they aren’t playing. It’s a complete genre.
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Why Google doesn’t rank right-wing outlets highly • The Atlantic

Alexis Madrigal:


Many right-wing outlets are embedded inside advocacy groups, like the Heritage Foundation’s The Daily Signal. Others are tiny blogs without the human resources to do original reporting: According to its staff page, HotAir, which Bolyard cited, has four editors (one of whom is pseudonymous). Even The Blaze, another outlet Bolyard cited, is reportedly down to fewer than 50 employees; the august Weekly Standard looks to have an editorial staff of only 35. Still other right-wing media organizations don’t adhere to the standards of journalism as the mainstream media recognizes them, peddling conspiracy theories or engaging in ethically questionable “reporting” practices or vowing to “break down the barriers between news and opinion, journalism and political participation.” Left-leaning outlets like Salon and DailyKos likewise shouldn’t expect to compete with The New York Times on Google placement.

All media outlets have to reckon with the power of opaque platforms, and there is plenty to critique about Google’s attempts to rank news stories, let alone URLs. The company’s concept of “relevance,” for example, is caught in a strange loop between what people want and what people think it provides: Google sees pages as relevant if people engage with them, but people trust Google to serve up relevant things, so they engage with what Google shows them…

…But even if the methodology is flawed, Google applies it equally to all the media organizations in its news universe. It might not be a “free” marketplace of ideas, but it is a marketplace with fairly well-known and nonpartisan rules. If right-wing sites aren’t winning there, maybe Google isn’t the problem.


Ooh, the marketplace of ideas. Right-wing organisations don’t losing in marketplaces.
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Apple buys startup focused on lenses for AR glasses | Reuters


Apple has acquired a startup focused on making lenses for augmented reality glasses, the company confirmed on Wednesday, a signal Apple has ambitions to make a wearable device that would superimpose digital information on the real world.

Apple confirmed it acquired Longmont, Colorado-based Akonia Holographics. “Apple buys smaller companies from time to time, and we generally don’t discuss our purpose or plans,” the iPhone maker said in a statement.

Akonia could not immediately be reached for comment. The company was founded in 2012 by a group of holography scientists and had originally focused on holographic data storage before shifting its efforts to creating displays for augmented reality glasses, according to its website…

…Akonia said its display technology allows for “thin, transparent smart glass lenses that display vibrant, full-color, wide field-of-view images.” The firm has a portfolio of more than 200 patents related to holographic systems and materials, according to its website.

Akonia also said it raised $11.6m in seed funding in 2012 and was seeking additional funding. It was unclear whether that funding ever materialized or who the firm’s investors were.


Ah yes, augmented reality. We now go over to report on progress with the latest AR headset, from Magic Leap. Over to Geoff Fowler. Geoff?
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Magic Leap’s $2.3bn augmented-reality gear meets actual reality and stumbles • The Washington Post

Geoffrey Fowler got his hands on one:


we’re not going to be staring down at phone screens forever, ignoring family members and walking into traffic. Apple and other tech companies are eying AR as a phone replacement, too. AR glasses have wider potential than virtual-reality gear, which effectively blindfolds you. The Magic Leap goggles, called Lightware, are translucent. When you wear them, it looks like a virtual world is painted on top of the real one — a creature is running around your desk; a web browser window is hanging on your wall.

There is, no doubt, a lot to be worked out for a new kind of computing device. But I’m surprised Magic Leap is not further along on the basics — or even just some experiences to make you go “whoa.” The Magic Leap One cannot be dismissed as just a prototype. Not only is it for sale, the company has announced a partnership to, at some point, bring a product to AT&T stores for demonstrations. Magic Leap says this first version is for “creators” and programmers.

Most curious: The company blamed some of my challenges on an improper fit of its headgear. My fit had been set up by an agent Magic Leap sends to deliver all purchases. I was left wondering how it will ever sell the product to millions if hardware calibration is that delicate…

…Google Glass was sunk, in part, by how it made its owners look. The Magic Leap One looks like a prop from “Mad Max: Fury Road” — very cool if you’re looking for a futuristic costume, but not something you would wear walking down the street. (Magic Leap doesn’t recommend wearing it outdoors, anyway.)

The design also introduces social problems. Though you can see the people around you, they have no idea what you’re looking at — if you’re paying attention, or even if you’re recording them. This information imbalance also contributed to Google Glass’s woes.


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Consumer genomics will change your life, whether you get tested or not • Genome Biology

Razib Khan and David Mittelman:


These enormous numbers of genotyped consumers will generate massive returns on scale, allowing for greater innovation and insight. If hundreds of millions of consumers contribute to genetic databases, then the power of genealogical algorithms to infer matches will increase, until the likelihood of matching a relative, if you have close relatives (at least in the United States), will converge upon total certainty. Public databases such as GEDMatch now include data from one million samples, sufficient to predict a 90% chance of finding at least one third-cousin relative. Even with this ‘small’ database, consumers will almost certainly find relatives, and many of them. Genealogy has proved itself to be a sector with an affluent and passionate consumer base, as evidenced by the multibillion dollar valuation of the Ancestry online database thanks to millions of discretionary subscriptions.

The huge numbers of genotypes provided by consumers are valuable for genealogy, but as the numbers of genotypes increase into the millions, the data become even more valuable for trait prediction and medical applications. The large sample sizes allow for greater statistical power to detect genome-wide associations, which may be useful in linking genomic markers to functional traits and clinical phenotypes. 23andMe, for example, has amassed a database with sample numbers in the millions with which they are now working to obtain genotype–phenotype associations. The analysis of rare variations becomes immensely powerful when sample sizes approach a hundred million genotypes, and medicine could be truly personalized when such massive information reservoirs are available. We simply do not know what we might be able to do until we hit those sample sizes, as that is still unexplored territory.


It’s the medical applications that are the most interesting, along with rapid DNA testing – even for a few genes which could affect your response to particular drugs, for example. The cross-matching that’s possible once you get a large enough population could, as they say, open up whole new territories.
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Smart speakers: 43% of german users can’t imagine life without one • Strategy Analytics


7% of German residents now claim to use a smart speaker, and 43% of those users agree that they “can’t imagine living without” one. 61% say that smart speakers have “greatly improved the way I use technology at home,” and 68% agree that “smart speakers are much more useful than I thought they would be.” The results suggest that smart speakers are set to become widely established in German homes in the next few years. The online survey was carried out with 1000 users of smart speakers in Germany in July/August 2018.

Other key findings from the research include:

• German users are already purchasing multiple smart speakers to be used in different parts of the home
• The average number of smart speakers owned by each household is 1.96.
• The most popular location for smart speakers in Germany is the living room (71%), followed by the kitchen (29%) and the bedroom (27%)
• The most popular uses of smart speakers are listening to music from a streaming music service and getting weather information – 46% of users do this at least once a day
• 85% of German users are satisfied with their smart speaker overall. The least satisfying aspects of smart speakers are their security and their ability to answer any sort of question
David Watkins, Director, Smart Speakers at Strategy Analytics says: “Smart speakers may have come to the German market later than some other countries but this research suggests that they are likely to become just as popular. Application developers can now begin to work with these new platforms safe in the knowledge that they are quickly becoming established and that the number of users across the country will continue to grow rapidly.”

Strategy Analytics research suggests that shipments of smart speakers in Germany will reach 6.1M units in 2018, an increase of 185%. In Q2 2018 Amazon had a market share of 58%, followed by Google with 31%.


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The new Sonos Amp is coming to save your old speakers • The Verge

Chris Welch went to see Sonos’s new $600 just-an-amp:


There will certainly be consumers who immediately go out and buy the Amp. But by and large, it’s going to be a powerful hub for high end audio dealers, installers, and integrators. The Connect:Amp became an essential piece of kit for people who make a career out of upgrading homes to be smarter and more automated. These folks undertake the challenge of outfitting every room with the best entertainment and music options money can buy. And then they bring order to everything so that it works under one unified system — from the likes of Crestron or Control4 — to make tech as convenient as possible for a client. They hide the wires and tuck all the necessary components into a neatly-organized rack. Our Home of the Future series sheds some light on the complexity of all this.

For Sonos, catering to these integrators can result in their clients purchasing thousands of dollars worth of the company’s products and spending years locked into the Sonos ecosystem. The goal is for the Amp to take the Connect:Amp’s place in the brain of a connected home. Because then it’s a central fixture that stays there for who knows how long. It’s a worthwhile business effort — especially when you remember that Sonos and its partners are increasingly trying to sell bundles of multiple speakers to people with cash burning a hole in their pocket. The Amp opens up even more lucrative bundle possibilities for Sonos and the many businesses that are part of the installed solutions channel.


Until I read Welch’s piece, I was puzzled by who Sonos was aiming at with something at that price which isn’t a speaker (though those are also coming next year). This makes it clear.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.899: FTC prods backpack crowdfunder, WearOS redesigned, Miami’s freshwater problem, Amazon’s tennis trouble, and more

This is basically all homeopathy uses. You’d think they could avoid poisoning people. Photo by Petras Gagilas on Flickr.

You can 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 12 links for you. It’s the weather. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The FTC is investigating a crowdfunding campaign that disappeared with more than $700K • The Verge

Ashley Carman:


The Federal Trade Commission might have a renewed interest in justice for crowdfunding backers. Emails seen by The Verge show that the agency is investigating at least one crowdfunding campaign gone bad — the iBackPack — which raised more than $700,000 across both Indiegogo and Kickstarter.

The backpack’s creator, Doug Monahan, marketed the device as a Wi-Fi-enabled, battery-packed backpack that would power gadgets on the go and provide a local hot spot for wearers’ friends. It launched on Indiegogo in 2015 and Kickstarter in 2016. Years later, the backpack has yet to ship, although some backers did receive “beta” device accessories, like batteries and cables, some time ago. Monahan’s two previous campaigns never reached their funding goals, but they were eventually used to market the iBackPack.

These backers tell The Verge that an FTC agent began reaching out to them this week in an effort to research the campaign…

…The iBackpack backers believe Monahan sold their information to other crowdfunding companies, as evidenced by communications they’ve had with some of these groups. They’ve also been told that the years-long delays had to do with undefined battery issues, including possible lithium-ion battery explosions. Monahan last posted an update to Kickstarter and Indiegogo in March 2017.

One backer said he was told by the FTC agent over email that the agency will “always try to recover any money we can for consumers when we file cases in court. Unfortunately, if the money has already been spent by the company or individual there is no money to recover.”

The website for iBackPack no longer functions, nor does the listed email address, and Monahan is completely incommunicado. The backers hope the FTC can find him and recover their funds, or at least bring his ill-fated campaign to light.


Monahan’s going to have to change his name if he wants to survive in the modern world. Searches on his name in future will be brutal.
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Homeopathic company expands recall as FDA warns of “life-threatening” infections • Ars Technica

Beth Mole:


On Tuesday, the agency issued its own alert about King Bio’s products and offered a scathing perspective of the company’s manufacturing standards and business.

In the agency’s alert, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb was quoted as saying: “We take product-quality issues seriously, and when we see substandard conditions during the course of our inspections—in this case conditions that are leading to high levels of microbial contamination with the potential to harm the public—we act swiftly to try to ensure the products are removed from circulation.”

The alert went on to note that, in a recent FDA inspection of King Bio’s manufacturing facility, the agency discovered that “several” microbial contaminants had turned up in the company’s products, including the bacteria Burkholderia multivorans. This is an opportunistic pathogen that causes severe illnesses in people with compromised immune systems and is a rare but emerging cause of meningitis. The FDA added that it also found evidence indicating “recurring microbial contamination associated with the water system used to manufacture drug products.”

After King Bio issued the expanded recall on August 22, the FDA immediately notified the company that it needed to do more. “The FDA contacted King Bio on August 23, 2018 and recommended the company again expand its recall to include all products that use water as an ingredient, including drug products for humans and animals,” the agency explained in the alert.


Amazing: how can a company that (basically) sells water screw something like this up so colosally?
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Huge Wear OS redesign is coming, check out how it works in these GIFs • Android Authority

C. Scott Brown:


The updated Wear OS will put more of an emphasis on getting to important information at the time it matters most to you. It also brings smarter health tracking and coaching (in tandem with the newly updated Google Fit) and more proactive help from Google Assistant.

Google hopes that these new features will help you get the most out of every minute of every day.

In the Wear OS redesign, you can easily see your notifications as well as quickly get to settings and functions that you use often. By swiping up on the screen you’ll see a stream of notifications along with Google Assistant-powered smart replies you can easily send with a quick tap.

Swiping down from the top of your watch face will bring up handy shortcuts to most important apps, like Google Pay, Find my Phone, and more.


So, basically, a lot closer to Apple’s WatchOS.

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Miami’s other water problem • Bloomberg

Christopher Flavelle:


As developers built out Southeast Florida, they found that instead of connecting each new home to the local sewer system, it was often easier to install septic tanks. Miami-Dade has about 90,000. “It was the magic carpet for quick, cheap development in Florida,” says Brian Lapointe, a research professor at Florida Atlantic University who focuses on the role of septic tanks in water contamination. These tanks are typically used in rural areas where homes are too far apart to justify connecting them to a central sewage system—but also in places where residential construction happens faster than municipal infrastructure development. Septic tanks trap solid waste, which is supposed to be pumped out, while the liquid stuff drains into the soil, where gravity and time filter out bacteria and whatever else is in it before it reaches groundwater. In Southeast Florida, that groundwater is especially close to the surface—and rising.

The state requires at least two feet of dry soil between the bottom of the drainage field and the top of the water table, but Lapointe says that during the wet season, the groundwater in parts of southern Florida already comes above that two-foot threshold. More intense flooding and rainstorms will swell the water table further, on top of the gains caused by sea level rise, sending partially treated human waste into the aquifer. That waste can contain E. coli bacteria, which cause diarrhea, vomiting, and even kidney failure. High levels of nitrates, another component of untreated waste, cause what’s called blue baby syndrome, in which infants’ blood can no longer carry sufficient oxygen.

Lapointe adds that one of the ways researchers track septic-tank contamination is by tracking the levels of acetaminophen in the groundwater. “People’s medications are coming with that septic-tank effluent.” The wonders of the human digestive system are many and varied, containing any number of other bacteria and viruses—“all these other organic compounds that may or may not be affected by the treatment at the utility plant,” he says.

How long does Miami have before the water table overwhelms the septic system? Officials, including the South Miami mayor, worry that the point of failure is closer than people realize. Says Stoddard, “I’m convinced that some of those septic systems are working by force of habit rather than by the laws of physics.”


And this is only one of multiple ways that Flavelle describes in which south Florida’s water supply is overwhelmed and liable to pollution. But who wants to pay taxes for better services?
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With expectations of a positive second half of 2018 and beyond, smartphone volumes poised to return to growth • IDC


Android’s smartphone share will hover around 85% share throughout the forecast. Volumes are expected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 2.4%, with shipments approaching 1.41bn in 2022. Among the more interesting trends happening with Android shipments is that average selling prices (ASPs) are growing at a double-digit pace. IDC expects Android ASPs to grow 11.4% in 2018 to $262, up from $235 in 2017.

IDC expects this upward trajectory to continue through the forecast, but at a more tempered low single-digit rate from 2019 and beyond. This is a sign of many OEMs slowly migrating their user base upstream to the slightly more expensive handsets. Overall this is a positive sign that consumers are seeing the benefits of moving to a slightly more premium device than they likely previously owned. The broad range of colors, screen sizes, features, and brands are a large catalyst for this movement.

For iOS, iPhone volumes are expected to grow by 2.1% in 2018 to 220.4m in total. IDC is forecasting iPhones to grow at a five-year CAGR of 2.0%, reaching volumes of 238.5m by 2022. With larger screen iOS smartphones coming up for launch in the second half of 2018, IDC has shifted greater volumes into the 6in to sub-7in screen size forecast for iOS. Products are on schedule to begin shipping in the third quarter and ramping up into the fourth quarter of 2018, with volumes growing to account for half of all iPhones shipped by 2022.


The OS market is a complete duopoly; 85% Android, 15% iOS. And IDC sees it continuing that way. Apple gets the money, Android gets the volume.
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Amazon suspends reviews of US Open coverage after deluge of complaints • The Guardian

Mark Sweney:


Amazon’s $40m five-year deal to broadcast the US Open to UK tennis fans – its first exclusive broadcast of a sports event – was meant to showcase the Silicon Valley giant’s streaming prowess and prove it can match traditional broadcasters and become a credible home for live sport.

The company, which has successfully streamed NFL matches in the US, has pulled out all the stops, including setting up its own studio at Flushing Meadows and drafting in former players such as Jim Courier, Greg Rusedski, Annabel Croft and Mark Petchey.

However, the internet giant has been inundated with complaints about a host of problems including the picture and sound quality of its streaming service and an inability to record matches. Almost 90% of the 650 reviews posted by subscribers to its £5.99 Prime Video service, home to its US Open coverage, gave Amazon just 1 or 2 stars.

“There is no replay option, no ability to record [and] the picture quality is very poor,” said one unhappy tennis fan. “It’s like going back in time 25 years.”

Others urged Amazon to “give tennis back to Sky and Eurosport”, which both used to broadcast the US Open in the UK before Amazon snapped up the exclusive rights.


Total 765 complaints by the time it suspended them; 627 of them 1-star. The five-star ones insist that it’s just about download speed, and ignore the fact that ITV and Eurosport had coverage of every court – not just three or four. Someone’s getting fired at Amazon.
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Announcing LTE Beacon for asset tracking • Estimote


Today we are proud to announce another revolutionary IoT device. Once again, we chose to leverage emerging IoT technologies (LTE M1 and NB-IoT) and have designed and productized a new device we call the “Estimote LTE Beacon.”

It’s a small, wireless beacon that can compute both its precise indoor and outdoor position. It can talk directly to the cloud and last multiple years on a battery.
Estimote LTE Beacons are designed primarily to seamlessly locate assets and vehicles when they move between indoor and outdoor environments. Their secure firmware/cloud software is crafted to provide true “proof of location” and “proof of delivery.”

Since the device is fully programmable using JavaScript, it can also support other creative use-cases — for example, it can act as a remotely managed iBeacon or a gateway used to configure other Bluetooth beacons.

The best way to think of this new IoT device is to imagine it as a small smartphone, but without a screen. It can last years between charges and the cost is similar to a beacon. It has cellular LTE connectivity, built-in GPS, and Bluetooth radio. And it is also possible to create and download apps that run on the LTE beacon.


Apparently a use for this will be for Hilton and other hotel chains so that housekeepers can push it as a panic button: it’s accurate to a metre.
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Russia secretly ran news websites in eastern Europe • Buzzfeed News

Holger Roonemaa and Inga Springe:


Russian state media created secret companies in order to bankroll websites in the Baltic states — a key battleground between Russia and the West — and elsewhere in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The scheme has only come to light through Skype chats and documents obtained by BuzzFeed News, Estonian newspaper Postimees, and investigative journalism outlet Re:Baltica via freedom of information laws, as part of a criminal probe into the individual who was Moscow’s man on the ground in Estonia.

The Skype logs and other files, obtained from computers seized by investigators, reveal the secrets and obfuscating tactics used by Russia as it tries to influence public opinion and push Kremlin talking points.

The websites presented themselves as independent news outlets, but in fact, editorial lines were dictated directly by Moscow. Raul Rebane, a leading strategic communications expert in Estonia, said that this scheme and others like it are “systemic information-related activities on foreign territory. In other words — information warfare.”

He said that Russian propaganda networks in the Baltics had been operating for years but had become more intense recently. “The pressure to turn [Estonia] from facing the West to facing the East has grown.”

Long before Russian interference in the 2016 US election became one of the biggest stories in the world, and Kremlin disinformation campaigns became a household issue, Moscow faced accusations of trying to influence public opinion in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, which are all members of NATO.

The revelations about the websites in the Baltic states provide a rare and detailed inside look into how such disinformation campaigns work, and the lengths to which Moscow is willing to go to obscure its involvement in such schemes.


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Don’t pretend Facebook and Twitter’s CEOs can’t fix this mess • WIRED

Ellen Pao (who was, for a time, CEO of Reddit):


Companies can address harassment without hurting their platforms. Taking down shitty content works, and research supports it. When we took down unauthorized nude photos and revenge porn, nothing bad happened. The site continued to function, and all the other major sites followed. A few months later, we banned the five most harassing subreddits. And we saw right away that if we kept taking down the replacement sites, they would eventually disappear. University researchers who studied the impact of the ban report that it successfully shut down the content and changed bad behavior over time on the site—without making other sites worse.

If you’re a CEO and someone dies because of harassment or false information on your platform—even if your platform isn’t alone in the harassment—your company should face some consequences. That could mean civil or criminal court proceedings, depending on the circumstances. Or it could mean advertisers take a stand, or your business takes a hit.

Today, I don’t see a single CEO or even board member who is willing (or perhaps able) to step up and say: “Enough. I’m willing to focus on quality and user experience. I am willing to take a hit on quantity to create a real place for meaningful conversation and to end harassment, misinformation, and the goal of engagement at any cost.” We need to fill this vacuum of leadership.


Of course, advertisers are happy to ignore the consequences too; let’s not forget that. They’re the ones who can ultimately make these free-to-use services really think about what they’re doing. If companies were pulling multi-million campaigns and making a noise about it, perhaps that would do it. Though we’ve seen that with YouTube, and little changed.
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The rise of giant consumer startups that said no to investor money • Recode

Jason Del Rey:


When Moiz Ali launched his startup Native, the maker of a natural deodorant brand, he couldn’t help but be self-conscious when mingling with other Bay Area entrepreneurs.

“In Silicon Valley, it’s often embarrassing when you haven’t raised money,” Ali told Recode recently. “When I’d go to parties or dinners, entrepreneurs would talk about how many employees they had. But for me, it was just me.”

Native eventually secured $550,000 from professional and individual investors, a relative pittance in the startup world where $100 million funding rounds and billion dollar valuations are discussed in a way that could sound like the norm.

For Ali, the limited funds meant cautious spending on marketing, a staff size that never rose above 10 and, even rarer, the need to turn a profit on each sale. In the earliest days, Ali and his small team also followed up with every disappointed customer — an education that eventually led to what’s called “product-market fit,” or the creation of a good that a large number of people in a certain market want.

So when Native sold to Procter & Gamble last year for $100 million in cash — just two-and-a-half years after launching — Ali could laugh last; he still owned more than 90% of his business and was worth a fortune. As important to him, he kept a strong grip on the brand’s destiny by remaining its CEO.


In a way, this story is unintentionally hilarious: as though a new tribe had been discovered, which Doesn’t! Take! Venture! Capital! Funding! When in reality, working your way up from “small and profitable” to “big and profitable” has been a favoured business approach since forever. All that’s slightly tweaked is that “direct-to-consumer” can use the web to expand their sales base, and follow up with happy (or sad) customers.
link to this extract

Nest x Yale smart lock now supports Google Assistant voice commands • Android Central

Joe Maring:


This is the first time any voice commands have been available for the Nest x Yale, and with Google Assistant support, you’ll be able to check the status of the lock, lock your door, and add it to any of your Assistant Routines. For example, if you add the Nest x Yale lock to a Routine titled “Goodnight”, you can turn off your lights, set an alarm, and lock all your doors with just one command.

All of these controls should prove to be mighty convenient, but take note that you won’t be able to unlock your door using Google Assistant. This was done as a sort of security precaution, and if you ask us, is a smart move on Nest’s part. Nest says you’ll be able to use Assistant commands for the Nest x Yale on both Google Home speakers and smartphones.


As it happens I wasn’t asking you, Joe, but it’s staringly obvious that you don’t want a door that can be unlocked using voice control. We don’t even need to go into why.

Meanwhile, the “Goodnight” routine is undoubtedly a clever idea, and those of a nervous disposition might like to be able to be sure whether the door is locked or unlocked. Baby steps, but that’s the way to make the smart home really work.
link to this extract

Fitbit heart data reveals its secrets • Yahoo Finance

David Pogue:


Before you freak out: Fitbit’s data is anonymized. Your name is stripped off, and your data is thrown into a huge pool with everybody else’s. (Note, too, that this data comes only from people who own Fitbits — who are affluent enough, and health-conscious enough, to make that purchase. It’s not the whole world.)

Most of what you’re about to read involves resting heart rate. That’s your heart rate when you’re still and calm. It’s an incredibly important measurement. It’s like a letter grade for your overall health. “The cool thing about resting heart rate is that it’s a really informative metric in terms of lifestyle, health, and fitness as a whole,” says Scott McLean, Fitbit’s principal R&D scientist.

For one thing — sorry, but we have to go here — the data suggests that a high resting heart rate (RHR) is a strong predictor of early death. According to the Copenhagen Heart Study, for example, you’re twice as likely to die from heart problems if your RHR is 80, compared with someone whose RHR is below 50. And three times as likely to die if your RHR is over 90.

Studies have found a link between RHR and diabetes, too. “In China, 100,000 individuals were followed for four years,” says Hulya Emir-Farinas, Fitbit’s director of data science. “For every 10 beats per minute increase in resting heart rate, the risk of developing diabetes later in life was 23% higher.”

So what’s a good RHR? “The lower the better. It really is that simple,” she says. Your RHR is probably between 60 and 100 beats a minute. If it’s outside of that range, you should see a doctor. There could be something wrong.

…Fitbit’s data confirms a lot of what cardiologists already know. But because the Fitbit data set is ridiculously huge, it unearthed some surprises, too.

“I was a researcher in my past life,” says McLean. “You would conduct an experiment for 20 minutes, then you’d make these huge hypotheses and conclusions about what this means for the general population. We don’t have to do that. We have a large enough data set where we can confidently make some really insightful conclusions.”


Some of it really is counterintuitive – such as these on heart rate by age, and against BMI.

It would be great to be able to analyse this data in more detail – but Fitbit’s not making it public.
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.898: estimating Apple’s wearables biz, Japan’s drone farmhands, the oldest blockchain, Facebook’s rating you, and more

What happens to water before it becomes ice? Scientists tried to figure it out with code. Photo by welshmackem on Flickr.

You can 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 10 links for you. That’s how it goes. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Yahoo, bucking industry, scans emails for data to sell advertisers • WSJ

Douglas MacMillan, Sarah Krouse and Keach Hagey:


Yahoo’s owner, the Oath unit of Verizon Communications Inc., VZ -0.36% has been pitching a service to advertisers that analyzes more than 200 million Yahoo Mail inboxes and the rich user data they contain, searching for clues about what products those users might buy, said people who have attended Oath’s presentations as well as current and former employees of the company.

Oath said the practice extends to AOL Mail, which it also owns. Together, they constitute the only major U.S. email provider that scans user inboxes for marketing purposes.

The strategy bucks a recent Silicon Valley trend toward more data privacy and shows an industry divided on where to draw the line between user protections and technologies that many advertisers crave.


ComScore data in the article shows that by this year only 17% of Yahoo users have an active email account, compared to 21% for Microsoft and 63% for Google. All changed since 2012 (on the desktop) when it was roughly 33-33-33 for all.

Yahoo is like an object circling a black hole’s event horizon: it’s taking forever to actually fall in, yet its fate is certain. There’s simply no way for it to climb back out to be relevant.
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The world’s oldest blockchain has been hiding in the New York Times since 1995 • Motherboard

Daniel Oberhaus:


14 years before Bitcoin was invented, Haber and Stornetta created their own timestamping service called Surety to put their scheme into action.

Surety’s main product is called “AbsoluteProof” that acts as a cryptographically secure seal on digital documents. Its basic mechanism is the same described in Haber and Stornetta’s original paper. Clients use Surety’s AbsoluteProof software to create a hash of a digital document, which is then sent to Surety’s servers where it is timestamped to create a seal. This seal is a cryptographically secure unique identifier that is then returned to the software program to be stored for the customer.

At the same time, a copy of that seal and every other seal created by Surety’s customers is sent to the AbsoluteProof “universal registry database,” which is a “hash-chain” composed entirely of Surety customer seals. This creates an immutable record of all the Surety seals ever produced, so that it is impossible for the company or any malicious actor to modify a seal. But it leaves out an important part of the blockchain equation: Trustlessness. How can anyone trust that Surety’s internal records are legit?

Instead of posting customer hashes to a public digital ledger, Surety creates a unique hash value of all the new seals added to the database each week and publishes this hash value in the New York Times. The hash is placed in a small ad in the Times classified section under the heading “Notices & Lost and Found” and has appeared once a week since 1995.

An example of Surety’s hashes
in the New York Times from 2009.
Image: Surety


link to this extract

What Dropbox dropping Linux support says • TechRepublic

Puzzled 20-year Linux-on-the-desktop user Jack Wallen, on Dropbox’s decision to drop Linux support except unencrypted ext4 (or ext4 with LUKS encryption):


For a company to support Linux, they have to consider supporting:

• Multiple file systems
• Multiple distributions
• Multiple desktops
• Multiple init systems
• Multiple kernels
If you’re an open source developer, focusing on a single distribution, that’s not a problem. If you’re a company that produces a product (and you stake your living on that product), those multiple points of entry do become a problem. Let’s consider Adobe (and Photoshop). If Adobe wanted to port their industry-leading product to Linux, how do they do that? Do they spend the time developing support for ext4, btrfs, Ubuntu, Fedora, GNOME, Mate, KDE, systemd? You see how that might look from the eyes of any given company?

It becomes even more complicated when companies consider how accustomed to the idea of “free” (as in beer) Linux users are. Although I am very willing to pay for software on Linux, it’s a rare occasion that I do (mostly because I haven’t found a piece of must-have software that has an associated cost). Few companies will support the Linux desktop when the act of supporting means putting that much time and effort into a product that a large cross-section of users might wind up unwilling to pay the price of admission.


Gee, it’s as if he’s catching on. Not mentioned: that Linux has less than 5% of the desktop market. About 0.8% of the desktop, according to Wikipedia’s statistics, which we can probably take as a proxy for the web.
link to this extract

How Facebook failed the Rohingya in Myanmar • Buzzfeed News

Megha Rajagopalan, Lam Thuy Vo and Aung Naing Soe:


Facebook once regarded itself as a largely neutral platform for content. But the company has reevaluated this notion amid calls from the UN and other groups to take greater responsibility for what users post — especially calls for violence.

BuzzFeed News’ analysis shows how widespread the problem of hate speech is on Facebook’s platform. A review of more than 4,000 posts by politicians from the Arakan National Party found that 1 in 10 of the posts — made between March 2017 and February 2018 — contained hate speech as defined by Facebook’s own public community standards. The ANP is the most popular party in Rakhine state, which was home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya before they were expelled last year. It says it represents the interests of the ethnic Rakhines, the dominant group in the state, which is also the home of the Rohingya and other groups.

Posts by members of Rakhine state’s parliament compared Rohingya to dogs, said Muslim women were too ugly to rape, falsely stated Rohingya torched their own houses for a payout from NGOs, and accused Muslims of seeking to become the dominant group in the state by having too many children. Some even told Muslims to get ready to be killed. Some of the most popular posts identified by BuzzFeed News as hate speech garnered 3,400 reactions or were shared up to 9,500 times. Asked about the posts, Tun Aung Kyaw, general secretary and spokesperson for the ANP, said he had never seen members of the party MPs post about other religions on Facebook, despite the evidence. “As general secretary of the party, I have never seen my party members post hate speech online,” he said.


link to this extract

Chromebook • AVC

Fred Wilson:


I have not used desktop software for probably a decade now. The browser is how I do all of my desktop computing. Paying up for a full blown computer when all I need is a browser seems like a waste.

And there are some security things that appeal to me about a Chromebook. I like the ability to do two factor authentication on signing into the device, for example.

I am curious what advice those of you who use Chromebooks have for me.

I like to use a desktop style setup vs a laptop unless I am traveling. So the Acer Chromebase and Chromebox look interesting to me.

But I am hearing great things about the Pixelbook and am wondering if I should start there.

I am also curious how one uses a Password Manager on a Chromebook. That’s the one desktop app that I regularly use.


Is he saying that he doesn’t run spreadsheets, or doesn’t run serious spreadsheets? One would expect a venture capitalist to be a heavy user of Excel, but that won’t run (in depth) on a Chromebook.
link to this extract

Facebook is rating the trustworthiness of its users on a scale from zero to 1 • The Washington Post

Elizabeth Dwoskin:


Facebook has begun to assign its users a reputation score, predicting their trustworthiness on a scale from zero to 1.

The previously unreported ratings system, which Facebook has developed over the past year, shows that the fight against the gaming of tech systems has evolved to include measuring the credibility of users to help identify malicious actors.

Facebook developed its reputation assessments as part of its effort against fake news, Tessa Lyons, the product manager who is in charge of fighting misinformation, said in an interview. The company, like others in tech, has long relied on its users to report problematic content — but as Facebook has given people more options, some users began falsely reporting items as untrue, a new twist on information warfare for which it had to account.

It’s “not uncommon for people to tell us something is false simply because they disagree with the premise of a story or they’re intentionally trying to target a particular publisher,” Lyons said.

A user’s trustworthiness score isn’t meant to be an absolute indicator of a person’s credibility, Lyons said, nor is there is a single unified reputation score that users are assigned. Rather, the score is one measurement among thousands of new behavioral clues that Facebook now takes into account as it seeks to understand risk.


link to this extract

The farmhand drone • CCS Insight

Raghu Gopal:


In Japan, several companies are competing to develop high-tech drones for crop spraying and other advanced uses. They’re working to fill a void that small-scale farmers in rural parts of the country are facing: a serious shortage of manpower. As the population ages and younger people move to urban areas, the agricultural sector is being left to tackle acute labour shortages. The drones perform arduous tasks and offer a solution to address the demographic shifts.

Nileworks, founded in 2015, is a company based in Tokyo that designs and manufactures drone technology for the agricultural industry. It builds an automated drone equipped with multiple rotors for spraying crops, and uses image processing and information technology to guide the machine to perform optimally.

The company claims its drone has the ability to recognise the shape of a field and spray at a height of just 30 cm above the ground, thereby reducing drift and wastage. The device can apply pesticides and fertilizer to a rice field in about 15 minutes, a job that takes more than an hour by hand and normally requires farmers to lug around heavy tanks. Nileworks will promote its flying machine to rice farmers in Japan when it launches the product commercially in 2019. It is also hoping to release the device in neighbouring Asian countries as other drone makers enter the market for agricultural drones.


Agriculture is really an obvious, and high-utility, application. (Heat-sensing cameras can also look at crops as they grow and spot the areas in distress, for example.)
link to this extract

From eight Apple management clues, a surprisingly clear(-ish) two-year window Into Apple’s wearables business • AAPL Tree

The quietly anonymous author of this blog has pulled a number of subtle clues from Apple management financial calls to put together these quite surprising summaries:


I know, just a simple revenue chart’s kinda boring, and seems like an anticlimactic way to end a connect-the-dots Apple financial “research” post. So, sure, I can throw out some things that jumped out at me and add extra (entertainment) value.

(1) The last eight quarters of Apple Wearables added around $17bn of revenue, and the trailing four quarters represent a combined ~60% growth rate over the prior four-quarter period. Not only is that considerably better than the 37% or so combined growth from all of Other Products in that same period of time, it also implies that Other Product Non-Wearables is a relatively unexciting business for Apple in comparison. Yes, it’s an extrapolation of an extrapolation with all that implies, but non-Wearables revenue growth over the same period looks to be mid-single digits, making it abundantly clear what set of products is breathing life into this revenue category.

(2) Apple Wearables, over the trailing four quarters, is approaching two-thirds of Other Products Revenues. “Clue 8” alone was all that was needed to arrive at this conclusion, but it’s a fun observation nonetheless given the semi-symmetry with iPhone, which tends to represent more than 60% of total Apple revenues in any given quarter.

(3) Bet you didn’t know this one – Apple Wearables, on a trailing-four-quarters basis, has quietly surpassed iPod’s all-time annual revenue record: $9.15bn, set in FY 2008, if memory serves.


He even reckons you could break out the Watch/non-Watch wearables data, given some of the clues to be found. Of course one thing Apple has now that it didn’t when it began the iPod is scale. In 2001 it was a tiny company, relatively. When it launched the Watch, it was already gigantic. That doesn’t make the Watch or iPod less of a success; just shows that this stuff is all relative.

Also: this is an Apple News link (it’s the only sort he offers), so if you’re reading on an iOS device it’ll try to open it in Apple News. I couldn’t find an original site URL for it.
link to this extract

The war over supercooled water • Physics Today

Ashley Smart:


[Renowned chemist David Chandler] and a graduate student, David Limmer [from UCal Berkeley], had used simulations to explore what happens when liquid water is cooled far below its freezing point. It was well known that pristine water—free of dust and other impurities on which ice crystals can nucleate—can be supercooled tens of degrees below 0 °C without freezing. But below what’s called the homogeneous nucleation temperature, around –40 °C, the liquid crystallizes almost instantly, no matter the purity. Chandler and Limmer wanted to know what that deeply supercooled water looks like in the instant before it freezes. What they found was seemingly unremarkable: at every temperature and pressure, the liquid basically resembled ordinary water.

To Princeton University’s Pablo Debenedetti, however, that result was mind-boggling. Two years earlier, Debenedetti and his coworkers had done their own simulations of supercooled water, at temperatures and pressures similar to those Chandler described. The Princeton simulations had revealed something far more intriguing. Yes, the liquid could take a high-density form that resembled water. But it could also take a low-density form, with the molecules arranged into airy hexagons reminiscent of those in ice. The water could morph back and forth between those two forms in much the same way it morphs between ice and liquid, or liquid and vapor.

In his 20-minute presentation, attended by many of the biggest names in condensed-matter theory, Chandler was essentially declaring that the Princeton team had gotten it wrong. “It was a matter of people saying, ‘Who are you going to believe, Chandler or Debenedetti?’” recalls Angell. “And Chandler carried the bigger stick.”

Over the next seven years, the perplexing discrepancy would ignite a bitter conflict, with junior scientists caught in the crossfire. At stake were not only the reputations of the two groups but also a peculiar theory that sought to explain some of water’s deepest and most enduring mysteries. Earlier this year, the dispute was finally settled. And as it turns out, the entire ordeal was the result of botched code.


Now go back to the first paragraph, and the second: ah yes, that word “simulations”. With so much science now relying on code, journals surely should insist on the publication of the source code used to reach conclusions. (Though read the comments on the story too, which point out that often it’s impossible, because many use commercial code – and Matlab isn’t going to publish its source.)

And yes, the whole story is a bit like a novella in the leadup to Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle.
link to this extract

Globalfoundries gives up on advanced chip production technology • Bloomberg

Ian King:


Globalfoundries, one of the world’s largest semiconductor makers, has dropped out of the race to develop the most advanced production technology, a move that will increase the electronic industry’s reliance on Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC).

The Milpitas, California-based company, which has plants in New York state, Dresden, Germany, and Singapore, said it’s shifting resources to improving and extending existing techniques and giving up on developing 7 nanometer technology. That’s the latest way to cram as many transistors as possible onto a silicon wafer – how the industry has improved electronic components for decades. The new strategy will require an unspecified number of job cuts.

The move further reduces the number of companies trying to build cutting-edge semiconductors and adds to concern that the industry is struggling to deliver advances that underpin all modern electronics. Globalfoundries, owned by the government of Abu Dhabi, is the second-largest manufacturer of chips designed by other companies, a market dominated by TSMC.

The logic of the move is simple for company chief executive officer Tom Caulfield: stop pouring the majority of its research and equipment budget into work that may never pay off and instead invest in current technology that many customers will continue to use for years. Most companies that want advanced production also want it in enormous volume, something Globalfoundries can’t handle. That narrows its list of potential customers, the CEO said.


And then there were… fewer. AMD used to be Globalfoundries’ biggest customer but is also going to TSMC now – and only Samsung and Intel are bigger by revenue, but TSMC has 52% of the third-party market; Globalfoundries was second-biggest with 10%. (IC Insights has a good breakdown for 2017: TSMC completely dominates.)
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.897: Oregon’s weed problem, the battle over Sidewalk, Magic Leap trashed, UN condemns Myanmar and Facebook, and more

Fortnite on Android avoids Google’s Play Store – but turned out to have a big security hole. Photo by portalgda on Flickr.

You can 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 10 links for you. Asbestos-free. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Oregon grew more cannabis than customers can smoke. Now shops and farmers are left with mountains of unwanted bud • Willamette Week

Matt Stangel and Katie Shepherd:


Three years into Oregon’s era of recreational cannabis, the state is inundated with legal weed.

It turns out Oregonians are good at growing cannabis—too good.

In February, state officials announced that 1.1 million pounds of cannabis flower were logged in the state’s database.

If a million pounds sounds like a lot of pot, that’s because it is: Last year, Oregonians smoked, vaped or otherwise consumed just under 340,000 pounds of legal bud.

That means Oregon farmers have grown three times what their clientele can smoke in a year.

Yet state documents show the number of Oregon weed farmers is poised to double this summer—without much regard to whether there’s demand to fill.

The result? Prices are dropping to unprecedented lows in auction houses and on dispensary counters across the state.

Wholesale sun-grown weed fell from $1,500 a pound last summer to as low as $700 by mid-October. On store shelves, that means the price of sun-grown flower has been sliced in half to those four-buck grams.

For Oregon customers, this is a bonanza. A gram of the beloved Girl Scout Cookies strain now sells for little more than two boxes of actual Girl Scout cookies.

But it has left growers and sellers with a high-cost product that’s a financial loser. And a new feeling has descended on the once-confident Oregon cannabis industry: panic.


How surprising that if you allow a weed to grow unchecked, it grows unchecked.
link to this extract

Myanmar’s military accused of genocide in damning UN report • The Guardian

Hannah Ellis-Petersen:


Individuals singled out for investigation and prosecution for genocide and crimes against humanity included Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw, who has openly stated his intention to solve “the long-standing Bengali problem”.

“There is sufficient information to warrant the investigation and prosecution of senior officials in the Tatmadaw chain of command, so that a competent court can determine their liability for genocide in relation to the situation in Rakhine state,” the report said.

Minutes after the report was released, Facebook removed 18 accounts and 52 pages associated with the Myanmar military, including that of Min Aung Hlaing. It comes in the wake of months of criticism of the company for failing to combat the spread of hate speech on Facebook in Myanmar. The Tatmadaw have often used their Facebook pages to spread disinformation and anti-Rohingya sentiment, such as photos of dismembered children posted to Min Aung Hlaing’s page, claiming they were killed by “Muslim terrorists”.

“We want to prevent them from using our service to further inflame ethnic and religious tensions,” the company said. The pages and accounts that were removed had a total of almost 12 million followers.

The UN mission called for Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to be investigated by the international criminal court (ICC).


Let’s hope that this, the first time Facebook has been implicated in a genocide, is also the last.
link to this extract

All three iPhones coming this fall will reportedly have edge-to-edge displays • Ars Technica

Valentina Palladino:


As September approaches, so too does the release of new iPhones from Apple. A report from Bloomberg provides a few more details about the new smartphones that we can expect from the tech giant this fall, along with insight into Apple’s overall strategy. The main rumors still stand: Apple is expected to debut three new iPhones in September with the goal of diversifying its product line with various device sizes and prices to attract new customers.

The report suggests Apple will reveal a new high-end iPhone with a display close to 6.5in, which would make it the largest iPhone ever. It would also be the second iPhone to have an OLED display, a premium feature to be carried over from last year’s iPhone X. This handset will have a glass back, stainless steel edges, and the ability to show two apps side by side in split-screen.

Apple will update the current iPhone X with a faster processor and an upgraded camera. Otherwise, last year’s flagship $1,000 smartphone should remain unchanged.

The third iPhone model will sit in between the 5.8in iPhone X and the new, 6.5in high-end smartphone in size, measuring 6.1in diagonally. This will be the affordable model that has been rumored for quite some time, featuring a cheaper LCD screen instead of an OLED panel. It will also come in multiple colors and have aluminum edges instead of the stainless steel ones found on the other two iPhone models. Constructing this handset with an LCD panel and aluminum will keep costs down, allowing Apple to keep the price of this model lower than the others.


Probably two and a bit weeks off the release now.
link to this extract

Toronto’s Sidewalk Labs is facing accusations of an Orwellian takeover • The Washington Post

Brian Barth:


In October 2017, Sidewalk Labs, a Google-affiliated company looking to make urban life more streamlined, economical and green by infusing cities with sensors and data analytics, announced plans to build the world’s first neighborhood “from the Internet up” on 12 acres of the Toronto waterfront, an area known as Quayside. Sidewalk aims to, for example, build an “advanced microgrid” to power electric cars, design “mixed-use” spaces to bring down housing costs, employ “sensor-enabled waste separation” to aid recycling and use data to improve public services.

The company’s long-term vision is to expand to the adjacent Port Lands, a valuable 800-acre tract of industrial waterfront. And from there, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a press conference to unveil the project, to “other parts of Canada and around the world.” Quayside will be “a testbed for new technologies,” Trudeau declared in rousing tones. “Technologies that will help us build smarter, greener, more inclusive cities.” The media was then treated to a series of utopic renderings of a futuristic neighborhood featuring driverless buses, green-roofed condos and carefree children
running barefoot amid butterflies.

Wylie, however, has zero tolerance for smart city PR-speak. “The smart city industry is a Trojan horse for technology companies,” she told The WorldPost. “They come in under the guise of environmentalism and improving quality of life, but they’re here for money.”

Wylie’s resume is filled with positions in IT, government consultancies and corporate development. More recently, she’s worked part-time as a professor while volunteering for various “open data” and “civic tech” initiatives. Last November, she launched Tech Reset Canada (TRC) with three other activist-entrepreneurs — all women.

The group describes itself as “pro-growth” and “pro-innovation” but questions whether a top-down smart city project by an American tech behemoth is really in the best interests of Toronto’s citizens. “This is a story about governance, not urban innovation,” Wylie said. “There is nothing innovative about partnering with a monopoly.”


Sidewalk is a mostly unnoticed attempt by Google to control the “smart city”. There’s also opposition to it in London, coordinated by a group including Adrian Short.
link to this extract

Epic’s first Fortnite Installer allowed hackers to download and install anything on your Android phone silently • Android Central

Andrew Martonik:


Google has just publicly disclosed that it discovered an extremely serious vulnerability in Epic’s first Fortnite installer for Android that allowed any app on your phone to download and install anything in the background, including apps with full permissions granted, without the user’s knowledge. Google’s security team first disclosed the vulnerability privately to Epic Games on August 15, and has since released the information publicly following confirmation from Epic that the vulnerability was patched.

In short, this was exactly the kind of exploit that Android Central, and others, had feared would occur with this sort of installation system…

…The problem, as Google’s security team discovered, was that the Fortnite Installer was very easily exploitable to hijack the request to download Fortnite from Epic and instead download anything when you tap the button to download the game. It’s what’s known as a “man-in-the-disk” attack: an app on your phone looks for requests to download something from the internet and intercepts that request to download something else instead, unbeknownst to the original downloading app. This is possible purely because the Fortnite Installer was designed improperly — the Fortnite Installer has no idea that it just facilitated the malware download, and tapping “launch” even launches the malware.


Ben Thompson had a good rundown about this on his Stratechery newsletter (subscribers only) where he points out that this is both the downside of Android’s openness (vulnerability) and its upside (you can install anything from anywhere). Epic Games, Fortnite’s maker, wasn’t too pleased about this.
link to this extract

WhatsApp has a fake news problem—that can be fixed without breaking encryption • Columbia Journalism Review

Himanshu Gupta and Harsh Taneja:


WhatsApp changed its terms of service in August 2016 to say that it would be sharing phone number and metadata attributes such as last seen with Facebook (but not chat messages since they are end-to-end encrypted). To a TechCrunch enquiry, Facebook said the sharing of data would lead to “better friend suggestions” and “more relevant ads” for a WhatsApp user if s/he is using Facebook. Kashmir Hill of Gizmodo wrote that Facebook may be using the metadata information from WhatsApp for improving its “People You May Know” feature:

In 2014, it(Facebook) bought WhatsApp, which would theoretically give it direct insight into who messages who. Facebook says it doesn’t currently use information from WhatsApp for People You May Know, though a close read of its privacy policy shows that it’s given itself the right to do so.

Therefore, even if WhatsApp can’t actually read the contents of a message, it can access the unique cryptographic hash of that message (which it uses to enable instant forwarding), the time the message was sent, and other metadata. It can also potentially determine who sent a particular file to whom. In short, it can track a message’s journey on its platform (and thereby, fake news) and identify the originator of that message.


They reckon that Facebook could look at the metadata for attachments – which is often how fake news spreads – and identify and control its spread. The first part at least should be feasible. Notable that it now also says if a message has been forwarded multiple times; but I don’t think that would stem fake news’s virality. It tends to give it status. (Ditto on Twitter: retweets and likes aren’t veracity.)
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Firefox Test Pilot • Advance


The Advance Test Pilot experiment is a collaboration between Laserlike and Mozilla.

In addition to the data collected by all Test Pilot experiments, here are the key things you should know about what is happening when you use Advance:

Sensitive Data: After installation, Laserlike will receive your web browsing history. No data is sent if you are in private browsing or pause mode, the experiment expires, or you disable it. Laserlike also receives your IP addresses, dates/timestamps, and time spent on webpages. This data is used to index URLs publicly visible on the web.

Controls: The settings allow you to request what data Laserlike receives about you from this experiment. You can also delete cookies, web browsing history, and related Laserlike account information.

Technical and Interaction Data: Both Mozilla and Laserlike will receive clickthrough rates and time spent on recommended content; data on how you interact with the sidebar and experiment; and technical data about your OS, browser, locale.


It’s going to send your web browsing history to a third party?!
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Magic Leap is a tragic heap • The Blog of Palmer Luckey

The aforesaid Palmer Luckey:


Tracking is bad. There is no other way to put it. The controller is slow to respond, drifts all over the place, and becomes essentially unusable near large steel objects – fine if you want to use it in a house made of sticks, bad if you want to work in any kind of industrial environment. Magnetic tracking is hard to pull off in the best of cases, but this is probably the worst implementation I have seen released to the public…

…I will keep this part short. I hope Magic Leap does cool stuff in the future, but the current UI is basically an Android Wear watch menu that floats in front of you. The menus are made of flat panels that can only be interacted with through the previously discussed non-clickable trackpack. Eye tracking and rotation/position of the controller are ignored, as is headlook. You can toss Windows 8 style application windows all over the place, floating in space or even attached to walls! That is nifty, mostly useless, and also exactly what Microsoft started showing off about three years ago. It is some of the worst parts of phone UI slammed into some of the most gimmicky parts of VR UI, and I hope developers create better stuff in the near future…

…I gathered some order numbers from friends and compared their order times, and I am pretty confident about predicting first-week sales. Unfortunately, they changed the system shortly after I tweeted about it. Based on what I do know, it looks like they sold about 2,000 units in the first week, with a very heavy bias towards the first 48 hours. If I had to guess, I would put total sales at well under 3,000 units at this point. This is unfortunate for obvious reasons – I know over a hundred people with an ML1, and almost none of them are AR developers.


You’re thinking: Palmer Luckey.. rings a bell? Yup, the founder of Oculus, the VR company bought by Facebook.
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1,464 Western Australian government officials used ‘Password123’ as their password. Cool, cool • The Washington Post


Somewhere in Western Australia, a government IT employee is probably laughing or crying or pulling their hair out (or maybe all of the above). A security audit of the Western Australian government released by the state’s auditor general this week found that 26% of its officials had weak, common passwords — including more than 5,000 including the word “password” out of 234,000 in 17 government agencies.


The legions of lazy passwords were exactly what you — or a thrilled hacker — would expect: 1,464 people went for “Password123” and 813 used “password1.” Nearly 200 individuals used “password” — maybe they never changed it to begin with?

Almost 13,000 used variations of the date and season, and almost 7,000 included versions of “123.”


The old favourites are the best.
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The rise of dismal science fiction • Slate

Annalee Newitz:


When I was writing my novel Autonomous, I wanted to explore a future where automation has ushered in a world whose economy is built in part on indentured servitude. So I met with economist and Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith, who immediately started world building like a fiction writer. He suggested that I imagine that people in the 22nd century have lost the right to work or live wherever they like, unless they pay for the privilege. As a result, work itself becomes pay-to-play, and people without money have no choice but to sign indenture contracts.

I wasn’t aiming to create a metaphor. I was trying to be as literal as possible about how easy it would be to slide backward into the savagery of a slave economy. By incorporating the ideas of a working economist, I hoped to offer readers a believable thought experiment about the real-life dangers of unchecked capitalism.

Economists wouldn’t mind doing a little more consulting work for fiction writers. Just as physicists love to complain about terrible science in space operas, Smith had a lot of gripes about all the unrealistic economic ideas in current pop culture. (The Iron Bank’s investment policy in Game of Thrones was a particular target of scorn.) Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman, a science-fiction fan, told me that it “would be nice” if he could be consulted on fantasy economics once in a while, too.

He just might get his wish. As long as the economy continues to be a source of tremendous anxiety, it’s going to fill our fantasies with alien currencies and demonic financial instruments. Maybe by confronting our problems in metaphors and thought experiments, we equip ourselves to solve them in the real world.


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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.896: is Google hiding Maps reviews?, TripAdvisor’s power struggle, what’s a pro Mac mini?, the press release hackers, and more

Norway has plastic bottle recycling sorted. A little nudge is the answer. Photo by Jennifer Cowley on Flickr.

You can 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. Even today, yes. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Norway’s radical approach to plastic pollution leads to 97% recycling • Huffington Post



While other industrialized nations grapple with dangerously problematic plastic consumption, Norway stands out, recycling up to 97% of its plastic bottles thanks to a nationwide bottle deposit scheme.

Ingrained in the Norwegian model is the idea that the container is on loan; it’s not yours. And why would you want it when you can exchange it over the counter ― at stores, gas stations or one of the several thousand reverse vending machines in public places like schools and supermarkets ― in return for cash or store credit?

Plastic producers in Norway are subject to an environmental tax. The more of their plastic they recycle, the lower the tax. Almost all of them are signed up to the bottle deposit scheme and, if they reach a collective recycling target of above 95%, they don’t have to pay at all. Producers have collectively met that target for the last seven years.

They ensure they reach that target by attaching a deposit value ― the equivalent of around 15 to 30 cents, depending on size ― to each plastic bottle, to be redeemed when it’s returned. The high-quality plastic waste that’s collected can then be recycled into everything from textiles to packaging, including new plastic bottles.

This simple but effective system would seem like a no-brainer for the United States, where recycling rates for plastic bottles have plunged from 37.3% in 1995 to 28% today.


Economic “nudge” systems like this can be surprisingly effective. In the UK a “sugar tax” on drinks with high sugar content has lowered their consumption. A 5p charge on plastic bags in store chains has reduced their use enormously. This tax system worked for glass bottles in the US; it could now for plastic.
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Google might be hiding the fact that its own reviews are shoddy • Yahoo Finance

Ethan Wolff-Mann:


If you Google “Chiropractor Bethesda Maryland,” you’ll see Google’s famous 10 blue links. But you’ll also see a box with a map — a snippet — at the top with local results, star ratings, and buttons for phone number and directions. Clicking further will show you reviews people left on Google Maps.

Google is ostensibly providing a service to make it easy to get what you want: a chiropractor in Bethesda.

But what if these reviews aren’t particularly good or reliable? This is a question that has come up based on the fact that Google’s library of local reviews is no longer available apart from the Maps platform or the box above search links.

If you Google the exact, unique text of a user review found through the box above in quotes, an interesting thing happens: No results are found, despite the fact that you just saw the text, provided by Google itself in the box above the reviews.

Google appears to have quietly purged its own user-generated review content from its search results.

This is significant, critics of Google say, because it obscures the fact that Google’s search engine judges the company’s own reviews poorly. Google’s search engine ranks content by relevance and quality, and Google’s review content previously showed up deep into the search results, far from the first page of links that takes most of the clicks.

A Google spokesperson disagreed that the review content was “de-indexed,” simply noting that because Google reviews don’t currently live on a web page, they are not displayed as web results.

Given that reviews once showed up in regular Google search results and now do not, it follows that the reviews were moved from a web page to the Maps platform, whose code prevents search engines from crawling it. What was once searchable is now not searchable, something Google did not explain.

As a result, Google reviews do not have to rank highly in search engines. Instead, the Google snippet — the map and reviews box above the standard search result — allows the company to capture clicks that would otherwise flow off the platform to whatever website had the best result in the algorithm made by the search team down the hall at Mountain View deemed as the best.


Capturing clicks that would otherwise flow off the platform is an increasingly big thing for Google, which once couldn’t wait to let people get off its site.
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How Tripadvisor changed travel • The Guardian

Linda Kinstler:


As the so-called “reputation economy” has grown, so too has a shadow industry of fake reviews, which can be bought, sold and traded online. For TripAdvisor, this trend amounts to an existential threat. Its business depends on having real consumers post real reviews. Without that, says Dina Mayzlin, a professor of marketing at the University of Southern California, “the whole thing falls apart”. And there have been moments, over the past several years, when it looked like things were falling apart. One of the most dangerous things about the rise of fake reviews is that they have also endangered genuine ones – as companies like TripAdvisor raced to eliminate fraudulent posts from their sites, they ended up taking down some truthful ones, too. And given that user reviews can go beyond complaints about bad service and peeling wallpaper, to much more serious claims about fraud, theft and sexual assault, their removal becomes a grave problem.

Thus, in promising a faithful portrait of the world, TripAdvisor has, like other tech giants, found itself in the unhappy position of becoming an arbiter of truth, of having to determine which reviews are real and which are fake, which are accurate and which are not, and how free speech on their platform should be. It is hard to imagine that when CEO Stephen Kaufer and his co-founders were sitting in a pizza restaurant in a suburb of Boston 18 years ago dreaming up, they foresaw their business growing so powerful and so large that they would find themselves tangled up in the kinds of problems that vex the minds of the world’s most brilliant philosophers and legal theorists. From the vantage point of 2018, one of the company’s early mottos now seems comically naive: “Get the truth and go.”

Many of the difficult questions the company faces are also questions about the nature of travel itself, about what it means to enter unknown territory, to interact with strangers, and to put one’s trust in them. These are all things that one also does online – it is no coincidence that the some of the earliest analogies that we once used to talk about the digital world (“information superhighway”, “electronic frontier”) tended to belong to the vocabulary of travel. In this sense, the story of TripAdvisor, one of the least-examined and most relied-upon tech companies in the world, is something like a parable of the internet writ large.


5/5 Would read again
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Bitcoin’s use in commerce keeps falling even as volatility eases • Bloomberg

Olga Kharif:


The way Bitcoin is being utilized is changing as well. Because the fees to process a transaction in Bitcoin can be steep and varied – they peaked at $54 in December, but are down to less than $1 today — not many people are using the coins for small transactions, like buying a cup of coffee. They are spending the virtual currency more to pay vendors like freelancers located overseas: For those cases, using Bitcoin can be cheaper and faster than using traditional financial services.

“In the last six months we’ve seen a large uptick in crypto companies paying their vendors in Bitcoin, including law firms, hosting companies, accounting firms, landlords and software vendors,” according to Sonny Singh, chief commercial officer of processor BitPay. His company has seen a five-fold increase in crypto companies paying their bills from last year, he said.

Bitcoin faithful continue to buy bigger-ticket items such as furniture, and still the occasional sports car. At Inc., crypto-based sales are up two-fold in the first half of this year versus a year ago, the company said. Top items bought with cryptocurrency include living-room furniture, bedroom furniture and laptops, according to the site.

Many people, however, are only speculating with Bitcoin or selling off small amounts to convert it into a fiat currency, and use that to pay for goods and services. Long-time advocate Graham Tonkin said he converts his Bitcoin and Ether from time to time to cover credit-card bills.


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Phone numbers were never meant as ID. Now we’re all at risk • Wired

Lily Hay Newman:


Thomas Hardjono, a secure identities researcher at MIT’s Trust and Data Consortium, points to credit card numbers – identifiers authenticated with a chip plus a PIN or a signature. The financial industry realized decades ago that the system wouldn’t work if it wasn’t relatively easy to change credit card info after it was exposed. You can get a new credit card as needed; changing your phone number can be incredibly inconvenient. As a result, they become more and more at-risk over time.

So if you’re looking for an alternative to the phone number, start with something more easily replaceable. Hardjono suggests, for example, that smartphones could generate unique identifiers by combing a user’s phone number and the IMEI device ID number assigned to every smartphone. That number would be valid for the life of the device, and would naturally change whenever you got a new phone. If you needed to change it for whatever reason, you could do so with relative ease. Under that system, you could continue to give out their phone number without worrying about what else it might affect.

“The people in the card payment space understood a long time ago that separating people’s accounts from static attributes is important, but this definitely hasn’t happened with mobile phone numbers,” Hardjono says. “Plus SMS is a weak way to authenticate anyway, because the protocols are vulnerable. So if your phone could generate this short-term identifier that’s a combination of your physical device identifier and your phone number, it would be replaceable as a safety precaution.”


But… you can use apps like Google Authenticator or (better) Authy to generate a TOTP (timed one time password) on the phone or any other device you’ve authenticated, without needing an SMS. Any system is vulnerable one way or another – ask the credit card companies.
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The terrifying, hidden reality of ridiculously complicated algorithms • Times Literary Supplement

Carl Miller:


With a triumphant flick of his wrist, the researcher tapped a key and the algorithm began. Twenty seconds later, the algorithm was finished. There in black and white, was an output. One, of course, that I cannot specifically describe, but an output that many of us use every day. The algorithm had produced a kind of reality, really – one that we make decisions from, that can even change our lives.

The researcher scrolled through the bundle of instructions, and changed a single one to a two. A single value. The algorithm reran, and reality popped out again, but this time, a quarter of the results had ceased to exist.

“OK,” I said, “what happened there? Why did you change it? You know the two is wrong. But how do you know the one is right?”

“That”, he said, gesticulating at the sabotaged result, “is the point. It’s a heuristic. I tried it, and it seemed to work. Then I tested it, and the result looked right. I can’t say the one is true. I can only say that it passed minimum evaluation criteria. The whole algorithm is full of parameters that could have been something else. Truth is dead,” he sighed. “There is only output.”
“Who checks these?” I asked.
“What about your boss?”

“You’ve seen how difficult it is to really understand. Sometimes I struggle with it, and I created it. The reality is that if the algorithm looks like it’s doing the job that it’s supposed to do, and people aren’t complaining, then there isn’t much incentive to really comb through all those instructions and those layers of abstracted code to work out what is happening.” The preferences you see online – the news you read, the products you view, the adverts that appear – are all dependent on values that don’t necessarily have to be what they are. They are not true, they’ve just passed minimum evaluation criteria.


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When the Mac mini goes pro, will the pros get Mac minis? • Macworld

Dan Moren on the rumoured “pro” revamped Mac mini:


this is the real question for the Mac mini. What “pro” situations does Apple expect this machine to be used in? Media servers aren’t really a pro-level scenario; most Macs these days have gotten pretty adroit at handling even large video files.

No, when Apple says “pro” it usually means “creative professional.” Tasks like Photoshop, 3D modeling, visual effects, film editing, music production, and so on. But a Mac mini, with its relatively limited graphics power, doesn’t seem well-suited to almost any of those tasks—certainly not as much as an iMac Pro or the company’s forthcoming Mac Pro. So how exactly does the company position what used to be its small low-cost machine against those high-performance options?

There are a few niches—literal and figurative—for which the Mac mini is uniquely suited. Headless servers, especially rack-mounted options. Other places where space is at a premium, such as connected to a TV to for a wall-mounted display. Or all those adventurous hackers who want to figure out how to fit a Mac mini into their car, for example. It’s hard to see a MacBook Pro or an iMac being used in any of those cases. Perhaps a displayless Mac is just what the server admin called for.

But all of this raises a larger question: How does the “pro” Mac mini fit into a line-up that already includes a powerful desktop (the iMac), an even more powerful version of that desktop (the iMac Pro), and a forthcoming update to the standalone desktop powerhouse (the Mac Pro)? That’s a lot of pro machines for a company that only does a relatively small percentage of its sales to professionals.

One place the Mac mini has traditionally competed is on cost; it’s traditionally been offered at a $499 entry point, albeit for a machine without a lot of power. That’s still a viable option, as Apple doesn’t have any other computers that are that cheap. But you’re certainly not about to get a “pro” machine for $499, despite the ardent hopes of a few.


So we’re expecting a lot to be solved in October-ish (the likely release date for the new Macs): the naming system for the laptop line, and what the hell a pro Mac mini is.
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How an international hacker network turned stolen press releases into $100m • The Verge

Isobel Koshiw:


Newswires like Business Wire are clearinghouses for corporate information, holding press releases, regulatory announcements, and other market-moving information under strict embargo before sending it out to the world. Over a period of at least five years, three US newswires were hacked using a variety of methods from SQL injections and phishing emails to data-stealing malware and illicitly acquired login credentials. Traders who were active on US stock exchanges drew up shopping lists of company press releases and told the hackers when to expect them to hit the newswires. The hackers would then upload the stolen press releases to foreign servers for the traders to access in exchange for 40% of their profits, paid to various offshore bank accounts. Through interviews with sources involved with both the scheme and the investigation, chat logs, and court documents, The Verge has traced the evolution of what law enforcement would later call one of the largest securities fraud cases in US history.

The case exemplifies the way insider trading has been quietly revolutionized by the internet. Traders no longer need someone inside a company to obtain inside information. Instead, they can turn to hackers, who can take their pick of security weaknesses: a large corporation or bank may have good in-house security, but the entities it works with — such as financial institutions, law firms, brokerages, smaller investment advisories, or, in this case, newswires — might not.

As one person involved in the press release scheme pointed out, it doesn’t matter what level of security a company has, “you’ve always got the human factor: that one employee who will click on the phishing email or is happy to exchange their password for money.”


Hell of a story.
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The US EA is now allowing asbestos back into manufacturing • Archpaper

Sydney Franklin:


According to Fast Company, the EPA’s recently released report detailing its new framework for evaluating the risk of its top prioritized substances states that the agency will “no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments.” 

This news comes after the EPA reviewed its first batch of 10 chemicals under the 2016 amendment to the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which requires the agency to continually reevaluate hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals in lieu of removing them from the market or placing new restrictions on their use. The SNUR greenlights companies to use toxic chemicals like asbestos without consideration about how they will endanger people who are indirectly in contact with them. 

Asbestos was widely used in building insulation up until it was completely banned in most countries in the 1970s. The U.S. severely restricted its use without completely outlawing it. As Fast Company covered, the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO) revealed in April that asbestos-related deaths now total nearly 40,000 annually, with lung cancer and mesothelioma being the most common illnesses in association with the toxin.


So “no longer consider the effect or presence of substances in the air, ground, or water in its risk assessments”: doesn’t that mean completely ignoring any effects? This is bizarre.
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On wider access to culture • Stumbling and Mumbling

Chris Dillow on the effect of having access to more books and music than our forebears did:


There might be another consequence – a diminution of shared understandings. Until quite late into the 20th century, there was general agreement about what it meant for people to be educated. Today, this is less the case: yes, there is a “canon” in many disciplines, but there’s disagreement about what this should be. It is possible for people knowledgeable about books and music to be unable to converse with each other because they’ve few readings and listenings in common.

One reason why there are such heated debates about the state of economics (or about Marxism) is that people have very different understandings of what these are, based upon different readings. Equally, I suspect that some misunderstandings of this blog are founded not just upon my own incoherence but upon readers not having my intellectual referents, such as Roemer, Elster and MacIntyre. The misunderstanding cuts both ways: I got an email in the day job last week which I couldn’t make head or tail of despite coming from an intelligent man, because his frame of reference was so different from mine.

But here’s the thing. Although we lack shared understandings, people want them. This leads to the emergence of Adler (pdf) superstars – individuals with no more talent than others but who become famous by luck or good marketing, and this fame then prove self-sustaining as everybody talks about them. Reality TV stars, as well as some authors and singers, fit this pattern. This is one way (of several) in which we see a retreat from meritocracy.


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What data scientists really do, according to 35 data scientists • HBR

Hugo Bowne-Anderson spoke to 25 of them:


Great strides are being made in industries other than tech. I spoke with Ben Skrainka, a data scientist at Convoy, about how that company is leveraging data science to revolutionize the North American trucking industry. Sandy Griffith of Flatiron Health told us about the impact data science has begun to have on cancer research. Drew Conway and I discussed his company Alluvium, which “uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to turn massive data streams produced by industrial operations into insights.” Mike Tamir, now head of self-driving at Uber, discussed working with Takt to facilitate Fortune 500 companies’ leveraging data science, including his work on Starbucks’ recommendation systems. This non-exhaustive list illustrates data-science revolutions across a multitude of verticals.

It isn’t all just the promise of self-driving cars and artificial general intelligence. Many of my guests are skeptical not only of the fetishization of artificial general intelligence by the mainstream media (including headlines such as VentureBeat’s “An AI god will emerge by 2042 and write its own bible. Will you worship it?”), but also of the buzz around machine learning and deep learning. Sure, machine learning and deep learning are powerful techniques with important applications, but, as with all buzz terms, a healthy skepticism is in order.


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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.895: social media for good, how do you break up Facebook?, Xiaomi grows, Onavo’s no-go, cracking app stores, and more

AirPods: the new way to say Do Not Disturb. Photo by Doug Kaye on Flickr.

You can 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 9 links for you. Insomnia, fine. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Breaking up Facebook won’t work • Yahoo Finance

Rob Pegoraro:


Siva Vaidhyanathan, director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia and a long-time critic of Facebook’s power, agreed on the virtues of forcing Facebook to separate Instagram and WhatsApp.

“It’s really important that user behavior data from Instagram and WhatsApp don’t get mixed up with Facebook user data,” said Vaidhyanathan, who also wrote the book “Antisocial Media.” “No company should have that kind of predictive and targeting power over billions of people.”

Vaidhyanathan added that he’s professionally bound to remain among those billions: “I have to be on Facebook because I write about Facebook.”

Many Instagram users either use that network as if it were Anti-Facebook—I know far more about some friends from their “Insta” photos than their scant Facebook updates—or outright think Facebook doesn’t own it. But in the advertising sense, Instagram is tightly integrated with Facebook.

“Its advertising system is powered by a massive collection of data with algorithms that deliver very targeted advertising across all platforms,” emailed Lynette Luna, a principal analyst for the research firm GlobalData. “That means behavior from Facebook users can be applied to ads on Instagram and vice versa.”

She wrote that a forced split-up would make online ads more expensive and less efficient for businesses: “I can’t imagine that advertisers would be happy.”

As for making life harder for disinformation campaigns, a security expert doubted that a Facebook-Instagram divorce would help.

“This wasn’t just accounts on Facebook and Instagram; it was on other social media platforms as well,” said Lee Foster, manager for information operations analysis at FireEye, which recently identified 652 accounts, pages, and groups tied to Iranian and Russian influence campaigns.


Do we care that advertisers might not be happy? That’s not really my definition of a social concern.
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Facebook removes data-security app from Apple Store • WSJ

Deepa Seetharaman:


Facebook pulled its data-security app from Apple’s app store after the iPhone maker ruled that the service violated its data-collection policies, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Apple’s decision widens the schism between the two tech giants over privacy and is a blow to Facebook, which has used data gathered through the app to track rivals and scope out new product categories, The Wall Street Journal reported last year. The app, called Onavo Protect, has been available as a free download through Apple’s app store for years, with updates regularly approved by Apple’s app-review board.

Onavo allows users to create a virtual private network that redirects internet traffic to a private server managed by Facebook. The app, which bills itself as a way to “keep you and your data safe,” also alerts users when they visit potentially malicious sites. Facebook is able to collect and analyze Onavo users’ activity to get a picture of how people use their phones beyond Facebook’s apps.

Earlier this month, Apple officials informed Facebook that the app violated new rules outlined in June designed to limit data collection by app developers, the person familiar with the situation said.


What puzzles me a little here is that I thought it had been known for absolutely ages that Facebook uses Onavo as an early warning system to see up-and-coming apps or features so it can copy them. The WSJ noted exactly this in August 2017. (That article was written by Seetharaman and Betsy Morris.) What’s been holding Apple back?

More generally, it’s a reminder that any VPN gets to see all the traffic that goes over your network, unless you use an encrypted connection within that. And many VPN services have been found selling user information.
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The 30% Tax • AVC

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson on the row around the app stores’ 30% cut of sales and (some) subscriptions:


I was interested to see that Netflix is currently testing a bypass strategy [of making people pay for subscriptions outside Apple’s App Store]. Certainly the biggest brands like Netflix and Spotify have the market power to at least consider this approach.

If the biggest brands can condition users to bypass the app stores maybe we are seeing the beginning of a crack in the armor. It may also be possible for these big brands to bundle subscription offerings and take a piece of the action themselves.

Imagine if Netflix let you subscribe to a bunch of other services via your Netflix account which you pay for directly on the web outside of the app stores. Or imagine if Amazon offered something similar.

The economics of that relationship for a smaller company could be more attractive than the economics of the current Apple and Google channels. And most companies would likely participate in multiple channels, including the app stores, as well as sell direct.

It seems inevitable that subscription bundling is going to happen. It already does via the Apple and Google app stores but that’s a crude version of what I’m thinking is on the horizon.

Consumers have demonstrated a willingness to pay for the apps and the content they value most. The subscription business model is a terrific one that aligns the interests of a company and it’s customers. But managing dozens of subscriptions via multiple payment systems is annoying. And there should be attractive economics for both bundlers and bundled apps.

So while I’m not predicting the end of the 30% tax anytime soon, I do think we will see Apple and Google’s largest competitors build significant bypass user bases and potentially start competing with Apple and Google in the subscription bundling business.


So you’d go to Netflix, where you’d also sign up for… Spotify? Deezer? Hulu? Disney? Or would you buy an app directly? How’s that going to load on your phone or tablet? Ben Thompson linked to this article from his Stratechery article on Thursday, and he thinks it points to some potential for a crack in how Apple and Google manage their app stores. But for the app vendor, it shifts the problem: now they have to go through Amazon or Netflix, who have to vet their app, and yet they still want to be on Apple’s phones, or on a Google or other app store. How do they get there?

More likely to be a challenge for Google: the EC decision means it has to open up to alternate app stores. Amazon might like that opportunity.
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Social media’s not all bad – it’s saving lives in disaster zones • The Conversation

Paul Reilly and Ioanna Tantanasi:


Social media was recently credited with reducing the number of casualties caused by air strikes in the Syrian civil war. The early warning system, developed by tech startup Hala Systems, uses remote sensors to detect aircraft flying over the opposition-held northern province of Idlib. Alerts are then sent via Facebook and instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp to civilians and aid workers in affected areas. These messages give relevant information such as the areas likely to come under heavy bombardment and the duration of these raids.

Since its launch in 2016, the system has reportedly reduced the number of casualties in the region caused by air strikes by as much as 27%. The system also triggers traditional air raid sirens that might actually be more effective than social media in reaching key demographics in affected areas. Nevertheless, this example shows why social media has become big news for emergency managers seeking to provide accurate and timely information to people affected by disasters.

Incidents such as Hurricane Sandy in September 2012 have shown how disaster response teams can leverage the “power of collective intelligence” given by social media. Members of the public use these platforms to share critical information that helps build a bigger picture of the situation. They also play a key role in correcting misinformation and dispelling rumours that have the potential to hinder efforts to restore critical services in affected areas.


I link to a lot of stories about negative effects of social media here, so it’s good to link to something more positive. The Conversation is a terrific site if you want an antidote to some of the madness in general news sites; it’s content by specialists in the topic. Paul Reilly is senior lecturer in Social Media and Digital Society, and Ioanna Tantanasi is a research associate at the University of Sheffield.
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Australia bans China’s Huawei from 5G mobile network, angers Beijing • Reuters

Tom Westbrook and Byron Kaye:


Australia has banned Chinese telecoms firm Huawei Technologies from supplying equipment for a 5G mobile network, citing risks of foreign interference and hacking which Beijing dismissed as an “excuse” to tilt the playing field against a Chinese firm.

The move, following advice from security agencies, signals a hardening of Australia’s stance toward its biggest trading partner as relations have soured over Canberra’s allegations of Chinese meddling in Australian politics.

It also brings Australia in line with the United States, which has restricted Huawei and compatriot ZTE Corp from its lucrative market for similar reasons.

The government said in an emailed statement on Thursday that national security regulations typically applied to telecom carriers would now be extended to equipment suppliers.

Firms “who are likely to be subject to extrajudicial directions from a foreign government” would leave the nation’s network vulnerable to unauthorized access or interference, and presented a security risk, the statement said.


link to this extract

Sorry, pal, i don’t want to talk: the other reason people wear AirPods • WSJ

Rebecca Dolan:


Zach Miles learned a valuable lesson shortly before graduating this year from Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma. Walking across campus while wearing his AirPods earphones kept people at a distance. “If you’re not in the mood to talk to somebody, or if you’re in a hurry, it gives someone a visual signal,” he said.

Mr. Miles brought that knowledge to his working life in Colorado Springs, Colo., where his AirPods remain a shield against awkward small talk. “It’s a crutch,” admitted the 22-year-old app developer.

Apple AirPods, those white wireless earbuds, do so much more than transmit music and phone calls. Even when muted, or off, they declare: Stay away.

“It makes you look like you’re really consumed in your work,” said Hughston May, creative resident at Moxie, an advertising agency in Atlanta.

AirPods do part-time duty as a personal secretary, screening calls and potential interruptions. Ms. May says co-workers bold enough to approach her while they dangle from her ears “probably have something important to say.”

…The rules of etiquette are still evolving. Amber Rosario, a barista at Starbucks in Midtown Manhattan, finds it rude when customers wear AirPods while ordering drinks, sometimes resulting in mix-ups over their order or name.

“It’s just ridiculous,” she said. “If you weren’t on your AirPods, it probably would have been correct!”


If we accept this premise, is the advantage of the AirPods that they’re very visible yet also approachable – whereas other wireless ones aren’t as visible? And that over-the-ear headphones make you unapproachable? The grammar of headphones is an interesting one.
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The Pixel 3 will be the first Pixel to get wireless charging • BGR

Chris Smith:


We haven’t had wireless charging on Google phones in years, with the 2014 Nexus 6 being the last Nexus phone to support it. At the time Google said that fast USB-C charging would more than make up for the lack of wireless charging.

But now, we finally have confirmation that the Pixel 3’s battery can be recharged wirelessly.

Why the sudden change of heart? Google will probably explain it all during the Pixel event later this year. But let’s remember that, last year, Apple launched the first iPhone models that do wireless charging out of the box. So it was not surprising to see rumors saying that Pixel 3 phones would also support wireless charging. After all, the Pixel 3 XL does copy the iPhone X notch, and Google copied the iPhone X navigation gestures as well in Android Pie.

After providing Pixel 3 camera samples earlier, the same @khoroshev posted on Twitter a video in which he’s placing the Pixel 3 XL on a wireless charging device.


Used to have wireless charging, then dropped it, now rediscovered it – even though you can argue that one was “Nexus” and the other is “Pixel” (but they’re all Google’s only phones), it’s that sort of chopping and changing that makes people switch between brands if they like a feature. Only introduce it if you’re going to keep it, unless you replace it with something better.
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Xiaomi sold 32m smartphones in Q2 2018 • China Internet Watch


In Q2 2018, Xiaomi reported a high growth of 58.7% in smartphone revenues to 30.5bn yuan (US$4.61 bn), accounting for roughly two-thirds of the total revenues. Smartphone sales volume reached 32.0m units, up by 43.9% year-on-year. IoT and lifestyle products grew 104.3% year-on-year in revenues, while the global sales volume of smart TVs grew over 350% year-on-year.

Xiaomi [the full company] achieved 45.2bn yuan (US$6.82bn) in revenue, representing a growth of 68.3% year-on-year. Adjusted profit grew 25.1% to 2.1bn yuan (US$317.1m) year-on-year, according to its first results as a public company since its IPO in July.

The smartphones segment… revenues [had] year-on-year growth of 58.7%. This growth was driven by an increase in both sales volume and the average selling price (“ASP”)… Xiaomi is the fastest growing amongst the top five mobile phone companies globally, according to IDC.


So… that’s an ASP of US$144 on 32.0m units compared to 22.2m at $130.62 ASP in the year-before quarter. Quite successful at raising the ASP, and now substantially bigger than many erstwhile rivals (notably Lenovo, which bought its way into the wider mobile phone business by purchasing Motorola, which continues to make losses – now up to six straight years, or 24 quarters).

Three of the top five phone makers are now Chinese – Huawei, oppo/vivo (which is connected with OnePlus – they’re financial cousins), Xiaomi.
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Michael Cohen paid a mysterious tech company $50,000 ‘in connection with’ Trump’s campaign • CNBC

Christina Wilkie:


Buried in the legal documents released Tuesday as part of Cohen’s guilty plea on eight felony counts, there was a new, previously unreported payment Cohen made in 2016 to help Trump: $50,000 for work that prosecutors say Cohen “solicited from a technology company during and in connection with the campaign.”

The documents do not identify which tech company Cohen paid the money to, or what, exactly, the company did for him. But the mere existence of the previously unknown payment suggests that Cohen may have been doing more for Trump, and for the Trump campaign, than simply paying off women.

Furthermore, the way that Cohen reported the $50,000 expense to the Trump Organization in January 2017 suggests the money may not have been paid out through traditional financial channels.

According to prosecutors, Cohen presented Trump executives with bank records for several of the expenses he incurred on Trump’s behalf. But for his $50,000 payment to a tech company, Cohen provided no paperwork, just a handwritten sum at the top of one of the other bank documents.

The Trump Organization would later say that the $50,000 was a “payment for tech services.” However, prosecutors say the $50,000 “was in fact related to work Cohen had solicited from a technology company during and in connection with the campaign.”

A spokesman for the Trump Organization did not respond to questions from CNBC Wednesday about the payment. Trump’s campaign, likewise, did not answer questions about whether it knew Cohen had paid a tech company $50,000 to aid in Trump’s election bid.


Delighted to note that we now have a Trump-Cohen-tech nexus. Cambridge Analytica or one of its offshoots, perhaps? Also: if it’s to do with the campaign, shouldn’t it have come out of the campaign finances? On that, everyone’s unclear at present.
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.894: the DNA data crunch, cold fusion crypto?, Iran’s social media sneaks, AI v art, and more

The bow of a Maersk container ship: the NotPetya ransomware brought the company to a dramatic halt. Photo by teralaser on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Honestly. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

What algorithmic art can teach us about artificial intelligence • The Verge

James Vincent:


[Computational design lecturer and artist Tom] White says his motivation is primarily to deconstruct what we think of as machine perception. In other words: to explain the algorithmic gaze. Take the example of the cello print in White’s series “The Treachery of ImageNet.” If you know what you’re looking for, you can see shapes that represent the instrument (a cluster of straight parallel lines bracketed by curves). But there’s also a confusing shape looming behind it. White says these shapes are there because the algorithms were trained using pictures of cellos with cellists holding them. Because the algorithm has no prior knowledge of the world — no understanding of what an instrument is or any concept of music or performance — it naturally grouped the two together. After all, that’s what it’s been asked to do: learn what’s in the picture.

This sort of mistake is common in machine learning, and it demonstrates a number of important lessons. It shows how critical training data is: give an AI system the wrong data to learn from, and it’ll learn the wrong thing. It also demonstrates that no matter how “clever” these systems seem, they possess a brittle intelligence that only understands a slice of the world — and even that, imperfectly. White’s latest prints for the Nature Morte gallery, for example, are abstract smears of color designed to be flagged as “inappropriate content” by Google’s algorithms. The same algorithms used to filter what humans see around the world.

Still, White says that he doesn’t see his artwork as a warning. “I’m just trying to present the algorithms as they are,” he says. “But I admit it’s sometimes alarming that these machines we’re relying on have such a different take on how objects in the world are grounded.”


White’s original posting is on Medium.
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Facebook finds disinformation networks tied to Iran, Russia • Ad Age

Garett Sloane:


Facebook has closed down more than 600 accounts and pages due to malicious activity it has linked to the Russian military and Iran in yet more instances of foreign actors infiltrating the social network to spread propaganda.

On Tuesday night, Facebook convened a call with media headed by CEO Mark Zuckerberg to outline the new cases of “inauthentic” activity – accounts that conceal their true identity usually in order to influence the online discussion around politics and social causes.

Cyber security firm FireEye, which worked with the social network to investigate some of the fraudulent activity, said in a blog post that “it’s aimed at audiences in the US, UK, Latin America, and the Middle East. This operation is leveraging a network of inauthentic news sites and clusters of associated accounts across multiple social media platforms to promote political narratives in line with Iranian interests.”


Iran is a new one for social media.
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Fortnite, Netflix take on Apple, Google over App Store ‘tax’ • Bloomberg

Mark Bergen and Christopher Palmeri:


In defense of the app store model, Apple and Google have highlighted their ability to filter out fake apps and malicious software, and to distribute apps widely. The companies handle identity and payment details, taking friction out of the sign-up process. Promotion inside their app stores can transform a company’s fortunes overnight.

Indeed, only the most-popular online services can risk not being in Apple and Google’s app stores. Skipping these powerful distribution channels is a “fool’s errand” for most publishers, according to Danielle Levitas, a senior vice president at App Annie. And few other game developers are joining Epic. Electronic Arts Inc. and Glu Mobile Inc. are sticking with their current distribution system, which includes app stores.

According to Branch co-founder Austin, this just shows how broken the system is. Most developers want to use the app stores, but some are reluctant to pay Apple and Google, so they have to take their chances on the web, he said. His firm offers software tools that let companies identify paying subscribers before directing them to their apps.

“If you’re a small up-and-coming company, you can’t really sell subscriptions on the mobile web,” he said. “By killing off the app store tax, it’d effectively reduce the last barrier for a large fraction of companies.”


That last quote does set it out clearly. The small companies need the app stores. The big players can ignore it, but big players were small players once. How do you set a “fair” figure for the “tax” on the subscription figure, though? And of course companies try to find ways around it – because for subscriptions they can. (Amazon on Kindle purchases, Netflix for its subs.)
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The desperate quest for genomic compression algorithms • IEEE Spectrum

Dmitri Pavlichin and Tsachy Weissman:


Scientists, physicians, and others who find genomic data useful aren’t going to stop at sequencing each individual just once [PDF]—in the same individual, they’ll want to sequence multiple cells in multiple tissues repeatedly over time. They’ll also want to sequence the DNA of other animals, plants, microorganisms, and entire ecosystems as the speed of sequencing increases and its cost falls—it’s just US $1,000 per human genome now and rapidly dropping. And the emergence of new applications—and even new industries—will compel even more sequencing.

While it’s hard to anticipate all the future benefits of genomic data, we can already see one unavoidable challenge: the nearly inconceivable amount of digital storage involved. At present the cost of storing genomic data is still just a small part of a lab’s overall budget. But that cost is growing dramatically, far outpacing the decline in the price of storage hardware. Within the next five years, the cost of storing the genomes of billions of humans, animals, plants, and microorganisms will easily hit billions of dollars per year. And this data will need to be retained for decades, if not longer.

Compressing the data obviously helps. Bioinformatics experts already use standard compression tools like gzip to shrink the size of a file by up to a factor of 20. Some researchers also use more specialized compression tools that are optimized for genomic data, but none of these tools have seen wide adoption. The two of us do research on data compression algorithms, and we think it’s time to come up with a new compression scheme—one that’s vastly more efficient, faster, and better tailored to work with the unique characteristics of genomic data. Just as special-purpose video and audio compression is essential to streaming services like YouTube and Netflix, so will targeted genomic data compression be necessary to reap the benefits of the genomic data explosion.


Can’t really “compress” it by listing it as proteins. (Or could you? I think not because long stretches are just nonsense.)
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Synthestech offers “cold transmutation” alchemy on the blockchain. Plus UFOs • Attack of the 50 Foot Blockchain

David Gerard keeps watch on the various cryptocurrency goings-on:


The Bitcoin bubble is deflating, and there aren’t nearly enough suckers desperate to put their money into anything with the word “crypto” attached.

So for Synthestech’s ICO, they’ve decided to go big or go home:




We are developing the most significant innovation of century. We use Cold Fusion phenomenon for transmutation of cheap elements into valuable elements and isotopes


Yep — it’s an ICO for alchemy.


Cold fusion plus crypto. Oh yes.
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The untold story of NotPetya, the most devastating cyberattack in history • Wired

Andy Greenberg:


“Henrik Jensen” [not his real name] was busy preparing a software update for Maersk’s nearly 80,000 employees when his computer spontaneously restarted.

He quietly swore under his breath. Jensen assumed the unplanned reboot was a typically brusque move by Maersk’s central IT department, a little-loved entity in England that oversaw most of the corporate empire, whose eight business units ranged from ports to logistics to oil drilling, in 574 offices in 130 countries around the globe.

Jensen looked up to ask if anyone else in his open-plan office of IT staffers had been so rudely interrupted. And as he craned his head, he watched every other computer screen around the room blink out in rapid succession.

“I saw a wave of screens turning black. Black, black, black. Black black black black black,” he says. The PCs, Jensen and his neighbors quickly discovered, were irreversibly locked. Restarting only returned them to the same black screen.

All across Maersk headquarters, the full scale of the crisis was starting to become clear. Within half an hour, Maersk employees were running down hallways, yelling to their colleagues to turn off computers or disconnect them from Maersk’s network before the malicious software could infect them, as it dawned on them that every minute could mean dozens or hundreds more corrupted PCs. Tech workers ran into conference rooms and unplugged machines in the middle of meetings. Soon staffers were hurdling over locked key-card gates, which had been paralyzed by the still-mysterious malware, to spread the warning to other sections of the building.

Disconnecting Maersk’s entire global network took the company’s IT staff more than two panicky hours. By the end of that process, every employee had been ordered to turn off their computer and leave it at their desk. The digital phones at every cubicle, too, had been rendered useless in the emergency network shutdown.

Around 3 pm, a Maersk executive walked into the room where Jensen and a dozen or so of his colleagues were anxiously awaiting news and told them to go home. Maersk’s network was so deeply corrupted that even IT staffers were helpless.


From a forthcoming book by Greenberg about NotPetya, called “Sandworm”.
link to this extract

Flipkart acquires speech recognition start-up • Financial Times

Simon Mundy:


The buyout reflects a growing consensus among ecommerce executives that strong growth will require a broadening of the market beyond English-speaking, relatively prosperous Indians who already do some shopping online.

Kalyan Krishnamurthy, Flipkart chief executive, said that “the next wave of growth of internet users” was coming from beyond India’s major cities. He added that most of these new users would want to access online services in vernacular languages — which most would never before have written using a keyboard.

“Given the complexities in typing on vernacular keyboards, voice will become a preferred interface for new shoppers,” he said.

A joint report this month by Bain & Company, Google and Omidyar Network found that only 40% of India’s 390m internet users made any transactions online, with this group skewed overwhelmingly towards higher-income people.

Analysts say this is partly a reflection of the fact that Indian ecommerce offerings have failed to keep up with a shift in the country’s online demographics beyond the fluent English speakers who were first to get online.

KPMG estimates that in 2011, there were 68m Indian web users who were comfortable using English, against 42m who preferred using a local language. By 2016, the latter group outnumbered English speakers 234m to 175m. And in 2021, KPMG forecast, there would be 536m local language speakers online, against 199m English speakers.


Significant point: in developing countries, voice is already the prime method for search, and can be for shopping too.
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How misinformation spreads on Line — one of the most popular messaging apps in Southeast Asia • Poynter

Daniel Funke:


Line has about 170 million monthly active users in its four main markets and is among the most popular messaging apps in countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Taiwan. While it’s similar to other messaging platforms, Line has a more exhaustive array of features, such as separate sections for news, ordering taxis, mobile payments and music streaming. The app makes money by selling stickers and advertising.

And, like both WhatsApp and WeChat, the peer-to-peer messaging environment can be taken advantage of by fake news writers, hoaxers and scammers.

“It’s a kind of complex thing as a mixture of misinformation, phishing, scamming, bad advertising and monetization,” Anutarasoat said of accounts that dabble in misinformation. “What people are sharing the most is about health.”

Those types of stories directly target an older demographic that might be less likely to discern between credible and bunk health information on Line, Anutarasoat said.

“Old people are solely on Line because they do not use Facebook much,” he said. “And those people, they are in the stage where their friends are deceased (and they’re) facing health problems, so I think it also drives the content network to target them and sell something like health products.”

Accounts similar to Knowledge Treasury, such as “GINZEN take care of health” and “GINZEN omni-knowledge about health” (roughly translated), get so big that they advertise bogus health brands. Both have more than 850,000 subscribers and “Ginzen” — an herbal supplement that promises to solve “chi and yin deficiency” — in their account names. Poynter reached out to both on Line but had not heard back as of publication.


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Apple to gain unconditional EU approval for Shazam buy: sources • Reuters

Foo Yun Chee:


Apple is set to win unconditional EU antitrust approval for its planned acquisition of British music discovery app Shazam, two people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The deal, announced in December last year, would help the iPhone maker better compete with Spotify, the industry leader in music streaming services. Shazam identifies songs when a smartphone is pointed at an audio source.

The European Commission opened a full-scale investigation into the deal in April, emblematic of its recent worries that companies may buy a data-rich rival to mine it for information or drive others out of the market.

The EU antitrust authority said it was concerned that the Shazam deal might give Apple an unfair advantage in poaching users from its rivals.

It also cited worries about Apple possibly halting referrals from Shazam to rivals of Apple Music, the second-largest music streaming service in Europe.


So does that mean it thinks Apple won’t be able to poach users from Spotify, or what?
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.893: how Facebook incites hate, pricing knee surgery, the data Google collects, Fancy Bear gets busy, Tinder Hunger Games, and more

Remember drones? Gartner’s given up on them. Photo by Ars Electronica on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. Not guilty. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

What does knee surgery cost in the US? Few know, and that’s a problem • WSJ

Melanie Evans:


For nearly a decade, Gundersen Health System’s hospital in La Crosse, Wisconsin, boosted the price of knee-replacement surgery an average of 3% a year. By 2016, the average list price was more than $50,000, including the surgeon and anesthesiologist.

Yet even as administrators raised the price, they had no real idea what it cost to perform the surgery—the most common for hospitals in the U.S. outside of those related to childbirth. They set a price using a combination of educated guesswork and a canny assessment of market opportunity.

Prompted by rumblings from Medicare and private insurers over potential changes to payments, Gundersen decided to nail down the numbers. During an 18-month review, an efficiency expert trailed doctors and nurses to record every minute of activity and note instruments, resources and medicines used. The hospital tallied the time nurses spent wheeling around VCR carts, a mismatch of available postsurgery beds, unnecessarily costly bone cement and delays dispatching physical therapists to get patients moving.

The actual cost? $10,550 at most, including the physicians. The list price was five times that amount.

Competitive forces are out of whack in health care. Hospitals are often ignorant about their actual costs. Instead, they often increase prices to meet profit targets. Patients, especially those with insurance, often don’t know the price of a procedure and rarely shop around.

This dynamic is a driving force in the explosion in health-care spending in the U.S., which will soon reach close to 20% of GDP. Americans spend more per capita on health care than any other developed nation, even though they aren’t buying more health care overall. The rise in hospital prices has outpaced economywide inflation for decades. “When price isn’t tightly linked to cost, that is a sign that the market isn’t competitive,” said Harvard economist Leemore Dafny.


Heading towards 20% of GDP. Astonishing. (Here’s some more about surgical procedures in the US. Clearly, insurance companies charge through the nose for knee surgery because it’s in demand and so they can.)

In the UK, where the National Health Service means the government is a monopsony for health purchasing, spending is just under 10% of GDP, and maternal mortality is lower and life expectancy is longer.

Articles like this appearing in the WSJ – the paragon of right-wing thinking – might actually get some of them to think, though.
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Facebook fueled anti-refugee attacks in Germany, new research suggests • New York Times

Amanda Taub and Max Fisher:


[The attack on a refugee family in the German town of] Altena exemplifies a phenomenon long suspected by researchers who study Facebook: that the platform makes communities more prone to racial violence. And, now, the town is one of 3,000-plus data points in a landmark study that claims to prove it.

Karsten Müller and Carlo Schwarz, researchers at the University of Warwick, scrutinized every anti-refugee attack in Germany, 3,335 in all, over a two-year span. In each, they analyzed the local community by any variable that seemed relevant. Wealth. Demographics. Support for far-right politics. Newspaper sales. Number of refugees. History of hate crime. Number of protests.

One thing stuck out. Towns where Facebook use was higher than average, like Altena, reliably experienced more attacks on refugees. That held true in virtually any sort of community — big city or small town; affluent or struggling; liberal haven or far-right stronghold — suggesting that the link applies universally.

Their reams of data converged on a breathtaking statistic: Wherever per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation above the national average, attacks on refugees increased by about 50%.

Nationwide, the researchers estimated in an interview, this effect drove one-tenth of all anti-refugee violence.

The uptick in violence did not correlate with general web use or other related factors; this was not about the internet as an open platform for mobilization or communication. It was particular to Facebook.

Other experts, asked to review the findings, called them credible, rigorous — and disturbing. The study bolstered a growing body of research, they said, finding that social media scrambles users’ perceptions of outsiders, of reality, even of right and wrong.


Fisher, one of the reporters, said “I can’t recall any statistic that has stopped me in my tracks quite like this one”, of the data that where per-person Facebook use rose to one standard deviation above national average, attacks on refugees increased by about 50%.

This – now, this is serious.
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This military tech could finally help self-driving cars master snow • Ars Technica

Jonathan Gitlin:


The research conducted at the country’s National Laboratories is usually highly classified and specifically aimed at solving national security problems. But sometimes you get a swords-into-ploughshares moment. That’s the case here, as a startup called WaveSense looks to apply technology originally developed by MIT Lincoln Laboratory to detect buried mines and improvised explosive devices for use in self-driving cars.

If you want a car to drive itself, it has to know where it is in the world to a pretty high degree of accuracy. Until now, just about every variation of autonomous vehicle we’ve come across has done that through a combination of highly accurate GPS, an HD map, and some kind of sensor to detect the environment around it. Actually, you want more than one kind of sensor, because redundancy is going to be critical if humans are going to trust their lives to robot vehicles.

Most often, those sensors are a mix of optical cameras and lidar, both of which have pluses and minuses. But is a combination of lidar and camera truly redundant, if both are relying on reflected light? Other solutions have included far infrared, which works by detecting emitted light, but WaveSense’s approach is truly photon-independent. What’s more, it’s the first sensor we’ve come across that should be almost completely unfazed by snow.

That’s because it uses ground-penetrating radar (GPR), mounted underneath the vehicle, to sense the road beneath—now you can see where the military application was. The GPR scans the ground underneath it to a depth of around 10 feet (3m), running at a little over 120Hz to build up a picture of the subterranean world beneath it. As the car drives along, it compares that data to a map layer of already-collected GPR data for the road network and can place the car to within a couple of centimeters.

Yes, this requires pre-mapping, but so does lidar. And WaveSense says that remapping should be far less frequent as conditions under the road are less subject to change than they are above ground.


OK, but don’t we need them to master fair-weather roads first?
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Gartner’s Great Vanishing: some of 2017’s emerging techs just disappeared • The Register

Andrew Orlowski:


For a new technology to succeed, according to the mythological Emerging Technologies Hype Cycle, it must first climb the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” before falling into the Slough of Despond, or as Gartner calls it, the “Trough of Disillusionment”. There, after shaking off the Mud of Mockery or the Dust of Derision that is presumably found in the Trough, it must pick itself up and begin to ascend once again, up along the gentler “Slope of Enlightenment” before arriving, triumphant, onto the sunny uplands of the “Plateau of Productivity”. Only then can an Emerging Technology finally put down the backpack, open the Thermos flask, and tuck into a well-deserved packed lunch.

Nine emerging technologies identified last year by Gartner in the corresponding Hype Cycle report have vanished.

Some of these are quite significant. Last July, Machine Learning was two years away from the safety of the Plateau. But that’s disappeared. Its cousin Deep Learning is hanging perilously on, like so many trends, exactly where Gartner put it last year.

Last year, Edge Computing could be found toiling up the Western slope of the Peak of Disillusionment – but that has fallen out of sight, too. So has Human Augmentation, Augmented Data Discovery, and Knowledge Graphs.

And remember Drones? They’ve crashed.


So you can satisfy yourself, here’s 2017:

And 2018:

Technology evolution is stuck. Really stuck.

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Google Data Collection research • Digital Content Next


In “Google Data Collection,” Professor Douglas C. Schmidt, Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University, catalogs how much data Google is collecting about consumers and their most personal habits across all of its products and how that data is being tied together.

The key findings include:
• A dormant, stationary Android phone (with the Chrome browser active in the background) communicated location information to Google 340 times during a 24-hour period, or at an average of 14 data communications per hour. In fact, location information constituted 35% of all the data samples sent to Google.
• For comparison’s sake, a similar experiment found that on an iOS device with Safari but not Chrome, Google could not collect any appreciable data unless a user was interacting with the device. Moreover, an idle Android phone running the Chrome browser sends back to Google nearly fifty times as many data requests per hour as an idle iOS phone running Safari.
• An idle Android device communicates with Google nearly 10 times more frequently as an Apple device communicates with Apple servers. These results highlighted the fact that Android and Chrome platforms are critical vehicles for Google’s data collection.  Again, these experiments were done on stationary phones with no user interactions. If you actually use your phone the information collection increases with Google.
• Google has the ability to associate anonymous data collected through passive means with the personal information of the user. Google makes this association largely through advertising technologies, many of which Google controls.


That is a lot of data collection, and the passive collection is remarkable. What is it particularly about the location data?
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New Russian hacking targeted Republican groups, Microsoft says • The New York Times


Microsoft Corporation said that it detected and seized websites that were created in recent weeks by hackers linked to the Russian unit formerly known as the G.R.U. The sites appeared meant to trick people into thinking they were clicking through links managed by the Hudson Institute and the International Republican Institute, but were secretly redirected to web pages created by the hackers to steal passwords and other credentials.

Microsoft also found websites imitating the United States Senate, but not specific Senate offices or political campaigns.

The shift to attacking conservative think tanks underscores the Russian intelligence agency’s goals: to disrupt any institutions challenging Moscow and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The Hudson Institute has promoted programs examining the rise of kleptocracy in governments around the world, with Russia as a prime target. The International Republican Institute, which receives some funding from the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, has worked for decades in promoting democracy around the world.

“We are now seeing another uptick in attacks. What is particular in this instance is the broadening of the type of websites they are going after,” Microsoft’s president, Brad Smith, said Monday in an interview.

“These are organizations that are informally tied to Republicans,” he said, “so we see them broadening beyond the sites they have targeted in the past.”

The International Republican Institute’s board of directors includes several Republican leaders who have been highly critical of Mr. Trump’s interactions with Mr. Putin, including a summit meeting last month between the two leaders in Helsinki, Finland.


Not that Fancy Bear and its cohorts only limits itself to Republicans. It’s likely they were behind this cyberattack on a Democratic candidate in California last week.
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Model Tinder-scams men for date competition in Union Square • NY Mag

Madison Malone Kircher:


When Misha arrived in Union Square, he found a small crowd gathered around the stage. [Natasha] Aponte had told him to meet her at the front. “I guess [the crowd] was mostly male, but that didn’t immediately register to me,” Misha told Select All. “As I was watching the DJ play booming techno on a Sunday I did think it was odd that that many people were staying around and paying attention so attentively instead of just stopping and walking on.”

David, another man who showed up for a date, said he realized something was up when “the guy next to me went ‘Are you trying to meet up with a girl named Natasha?’” Eventually, “everyone started realizing what was going on.” “I got there and a DJ was playing and I found out that hundreds of other guys were also waiting for Natasha,” Spencer said. “I walked away when I found out it was a scam.” He heard people booing as he left Union Square.

Aponte eventually took the stage with a microphone to reveal her con. “She walked on, stated and explained the situation, and validated her actions by saying, ‘Won’t this be a great first-date story!’” Misha described it on Twitter as “a hunger games speech about what it’s gonna take to date her.”


Only a pity that she couldn’t arrange them to fight to the death. No doubt someone will figure that out sooner or later.
link to this extract

The undertakers of Silicon Valley: how failure became big business • The Guardian

Adrian Daub:


Silicon Valley’s tolerance for failure has long sustained an obsession with youth. If a founder fails, tech discourse interprets it as a sign of young vigor. In a country in which 25-year-old white rapists are “still boys” and black 12-year-olds on the playground “look like adults”, the question of who gets to be a kid and who counts as a grownup is clearly charged with privilege.

In 2017, a chastened Travis Kalanick admitted: “I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up.” Even in a place as chock-a-block with balding skateboarders and middle-aged trick-or-treaters as San Francisco, a 40-year-old CEO of a $15bn company casting himself as an overenthusiastic kid who just needs to get his shit together is a bit much.

Failing in Silicon Valley is often a prerogative of the young – or, in Kalanick’s case, the adolescent-acting. And people don’t talk about how much less sustainable it has become to be young in the Valley. One VC who back in the early aughts grew a tiny startup into an $80m company with more than 250 employees reminisced to me about the early days when “we just lived with our parents in Toronto”. “Our labor force was ourselves and we paid for the servers by credit card,” he continued. Then he reflected a moment. “That’s no longer possible, which I guess is what makes us necessary.”

But the thing about failing is that it seems to carry opposite meanings depending on who does it. If a traditional brick-and-mortar business hemorrhages money as unregulated digital competition moves in, then that’s just a sign that brick-and-mortar deserves to die. By contrast, if a disruptive new economy startup loses money by the billions, it’s a sign of how revolutionary and bold they are.


It’s one of those irregular verbs – “my internet startup began too early, your bricks-and-mortar business failed.”
link to this extract

Why are record companies dumping their Spotify stock? • Office of Copyright

Stephen Carlisle:


if you hold shares in a company that is running a deficit of over €2bn, with annual losses approaching €400m, you might come to the conclusion that Spotify is not going to make any real profits for quite some time, and thus no dividend to you, the shareholder. It might also point towards the conclusion that Spotify’s continuing losses will not have an upward effect on the stock price, making it more prudent to sell now.

Could Spotify turn a profit by reducing its costs? Of course, and Spotify is always ready to point the finger at greedy copyright owners.

“We have incurred significant costs to license content and continue to pay royalties to music labels, publishers, and other copyright owners for such content. If we cannot successfully earn revenue at a rate that exceeds the operational costs, including royalty expenses, associated with our Service, we will not be able to achieve or sustain profitability.”

Boo! Hiss! Greedy copyright owners!

Except there’s this. In February of 2017, despite losing truckloads of money for years, Spotify found it necessary to open offices in New York City. And not just in any old office building. It rented space in the newly rebuilt World Trade Center. 13 According to Digital Music News, this is 478,000 square feet of office space spread over a total of 14 floors. This was not enough. Spotify later signed an option to take on 100,000 more square feet. 14 I suggest that you click on the link provided in the endnote and take a look at the pictures.

Nice pool table, guys.

The cost of this? Again according to Digital Music News:

$2.77m a month, or $33.29m a year. Over the 17 years lease, more than $566m in rent; $31m in upfront payments. To this we can add the fact that:

In 2015, executive and board member pay was $16.9m, an increase of 300% over the previous year. In 2015, the average Spotify employee made $150,000. During 2015, Spotify lost $253.8m.

It does not seem from these numbers that Spotify is interested in reducing its costs, if it has to come by way of reducing their prestigious digs and creature comforts. If you are a record company, and you know this from close up observation, it might make sense to sell your shares.


link to this extract

Android users and men far less likely to make in-app mobile gaming purchases than iOS users and women • Android Police

Rose Behar:


iOS users and women are much more likely to make in-app purchases than Android users and men. Liftoff reports that the 21% IAP conversion rates for iOS users are nearly double that of Android users, which rest at 10.8%. While it acknowledges that its own data, drawn from 350 gaming apps (58% iOS and 42% Android), may overemphasize the disconnect, the findings are backed up by evidence from other sources, as well.

App market data provider App Annie reports that Android users accounted for 70% of total app downloads in 2017, but generated only 34% of total consumer app spend. Still, the sheer size of the Android market — in 2017, Google reported over 2 billion monthly active devices — means mobile game marketers aren’t going to give up on the platform any time soon.

As for the gender split, Liftoff’s data showed that IAP conversion rates for women are 26% higher than for men, and that the install-to-purchase rate for women is an impressive 79% higher than for men.


In many ways, not a surprise; this has been a consistent pattern for years, and there’s no reason it would change.
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.892: China’s smart speaker fight, Huawei ad caught out, Julia or Python?, the Bitcoin post-boomers, and more

Apple’s most iconic laptop is expected to get an overhaul – with a better screen. Photo by Faheem Patel on Flickr.

You can 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 just for you. Boom, bust, whatever. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The rise of Chinese voice assistants and the race to commoditize smart speakers • CB Insights


Neither Amazon Echo nor Google Home have penetrated China.

Apart from the tight regulations US tech companies face there, Chinese natural language processing is complex (with 130 spoken dialects and 30 written languages), making speech recognition a huge challenge.

Among US big tech, only Apple’s Siri supports Mandarin on the iPhone. The company’s Homepod smart speaker only supports English, and is not available in China.

This leaves a huge market underserved by US companies, and local players are capitalizing on it.

Smart voice is one of the Chinese government’s four main focus areas in its first wave of AI applications throughout the country. (Read about its focus on healthcare, smart cities, and autonomous vehicles here.)

China’s big tech has stepped up here in a big way. Alibaba sold its Tmall Genie smart speakers for $15 in China on Single’s Day, the country’s annual shopping extravaganza on November 11. Baidu recently slashed the price of one its smart speakers in China from $39 to $14.

These low prices are making it nearly impossible for smaller companies to compete.


Apple might have a chance there: open market. At the top end, at least.
link to this extract

Huawei caught passing off DSLR pictures as phone camera samples • Engadget

Rachel England:


Huawei doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to advertising. Campaigns for both its P8 and P9 phones were revealed to be at least a little dishonest, and it seems the advertising around its newest launch, the Nova 3, falls into the same category.

A 30-second advert for the phone features a couple. The man wants to take a quick selfie, but because she’s hanging out at home she doesn’t have any makeup on, so she’s not on board. Enter the Nova 3 and its beauty AI feature, making it look like her face is fully done up. A lovely selfie ensues. Look!

So far, so innocuous (well, apart from the entire narrative around women needing a makeup filter in the first place, but that’s another story). But it’s all gone south for Huawei because the advert’s actress, Sarah Elshamy, posted a few behind-the-scenes snaps of the filming on her Instagram account. And it turns out that lovely selfie was actually captured by a great big DSLR, and not in fact the Nova 3. As the since-deleted picture below shows, the guy taking the supposed selfie in the typical arms-outstretched position is actually holding… nothing.



You think: only the tech press notices. But the tech press will make noise about this, and that leaks to the nationals, and it turns up when people do searches on Huawei. Also: it’s a bad look.
link to this extract

Is Julia a good alternative to R and Python for programmers? • Quartz

Dan Kopf:


why shouldn’t every data scientist learn Julia [now at 1.0 release, guaranteeing forward compatibility]? There are a couple of reasons.

One, if processing speed isn’t important to you, Julia is probably inferior to whatever product you are using—at least for now. I am an R user, and most of the statistics work I do is on relatively small datasets, and involves simple calculations. The community of R developers, particularly the rockstar data scientist Hadley Wickham, have developed terrific tools, with thorough documentation, for doing simple data analysis tasks. I tried using Julia to complete some of the basic tasks I now do in R. Julia’s tools did not seem as developed for these purposes.

Second, Julia is behind Python and R in terms of tools for debugging and identifying performance issues. Shah says that now that the basics of the language are completed, he hopes more of the community will turn to developing these tools, which make the language easier for new users.


This Nasa document from February suggests that Julia is often an order of magnitude faster than Python – except when it comes to complex work used in speech recognition, image processing and so on, when it’s (presently) slower. A quick glance suggests it’s very similar to Python in syntax.
link to this extract

Apple Is planning a new low-cost MacBook, pro-focused Mac mini • Bloomberg

Mark Gurman and Debby Wu:


Apple will release a new low-cost laptop and a professional-focused upgrade to the Mac mini desktop later this year, ending a drought of Mac computers that has limited sales of the company’s longest-running line of devices, according to people familiar with the plans.

The new laptop will look similar to the current MacBook Air, but will include thinner bezels around the screen. The display, which will remain about 13in, will be a higher-resolution “Retina” version that Apple uses on other products, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing products still in development. Apple spokesman Bill Evans declined to comment.

The current MacBook Air, which costs $1,000, remains Apple’s only laptop without a high-resolution screen. The MacBook Air was last updated with a faster processor option last year, but hasn’t seen a major overhaul in several years. The 12in MacBook launched in 2015 was seen as a replacement to the MacBook Air, but its $1,300 starting price put it out of reach for some consumers. The new MacBook Air will be geared toward consumers looking for a cheaper Apple computer, but also schools that often buy laptops in bulk…

…”HP and Lenovo have released products priced similarly to the MacBook Air, gaining share, and in order to remain competitive in that price point, we think a form-factor change is necessary,” Shannon Cross, an analyst at Cross Research, said. “It should help them rebound some of their Mac sales as things have been getting a bit long on the tooth in terms of their Mac line as they’ve clearly been very focused on the iPhone and services businesses.”


Well, it would be about time for “Retina” to reach the Air, which is an iconic name and design. (Is it Apple’s longest-surviving laptop design?) As John Gruber points out, it can’t have smaller bezels (an obvious move) and be the same size; that implies a larger screen. More likely the computer is smaller… like the current USB-C MacBook. And what does “pro-focused” mean for the Mac mini? More powerful? More expensive? More ports? “New storage and processor options”, according to Gurman + Wu. Hmm. And will they both have USB-C? That’s the big question for me.

Likely release: October.
link to this extract

After the Bitcoin boom: hard lessons for cryptocurrency investors • The New York Times

Nathaniel Popper and Su-Hyun Lee:


Pete Roberts of Nottingham, England, was one of the many risk-takers who threw their savings into cryptocurrencies when prices were going through the roof last winter.

Now, eight months later, the $23,000 he invested in several digital tokens is worth about $4,000, and he is clearheaded about what happened.

“I got too caught up in the fear of missing out and trying to make a quick buck,” he said last week. “The losses have pretty much left me financially ruined.”

Mr. Roberts, 28, has a lot of company. After the latest round of big price drops, many cryptocurrencies have given back all of the enormous gains they experienced last winter. The value of all outstanding digital tokens has fallen by about $600bn, or 75%, since the peak in January, according to data from the website…

…In South Korea, the biggest exchanges opened storefronts to make investment easier for people who didn’t feel comfortable doing it online. The offices of one big exchange, Coinone, had just one customer walk in during a two-hour period in the middle of the day last week. An employee, Yu Ji-Hoon, said, “The prices of the digital tokens have fallen so much that people seem to feel upset.”

Kim Hyon-jeong, a 45-year-old teacher and mother of one who lives on the outskirts of Seoul, said she put about 100 million won, or $90,000, into cryptocurrencies last fall. She drew on savings, an insurance policy and a $25,000 loan. Her investments are now down about 90%.

“I thought that cryptocurrencies would be the one and only breakthrough for ordinary hardworking people like us,” she said. “I thought my family and I could escape hardship and live more comfortably, but it turned out to be the other way around.”


Recall these: Bitcoin’s price was artificially inflated by half in 2017, researchers say; ‘Bitcoin is my potential pension’: what’s driving people in Kentucky to join the craze (February 2018). I wish the NYT had sought out the Kentucky investors, who were seeing the values fall, day after day. Most will surely have been wiped out in one of the US’s poorest states.
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TRON: our BitTorrent plan might take two decades • TorrentFreak



Back in May, TorrentFreak broke the news that Justin Sun, the entrepreneur behind the popular cryptocurrency TRON, was in the process of acquiring BitTorrent Inc.

Two months later, BitTorrent Inc. and the TRON Foundation confirmed the acquisition.

“With this acquisition, BitTorrent will continue to provide high quality services for over 100M users around the world. We believe that joining the TRON network will further enhance BitTorrent and accelerate our mission of creating an Internet of options, not rules,” BitTorrent Inc. said.

TRON’s Justin Sun added that the acquisition of BitTorrent supports his foundation’s goal to decentralize the web but more concrete details beyond this vision have proven elusive. The entrepreneur has mentioned the possibility of rewarding BitTorrent seeders but that raises even more questions.

This week, in celebration of TRON’s US and China teams meeting up for the first time, Sun dangled some additional information on why the acquisition took place and what TRON’s plans are for the future.

“Contrary to speculation, the main reason for the acquisition isn’t BitTorrent’s more than 100M active users, and it isn’t for an amazing commercial opportunity,” Sun said.

“Yes, these things are great perks, but the more important reason is that BitTorrent has always been committed to one value, which is ‘Democratize the Internet.’ This is very much in line with TRON’s ‘Decentralize the Web.’ The fact that our values are in sync is the driving force behind this acquisition.”


Had you forgotten BitTorrent, which tried to make a business out of that fabulous download protocol (and failed)? Now it’s owned by a crypto company; can’t decide if this is “two bald men fighting over a comb” or “two skydivers, one parachute”. But at least the two-decade timetable sets a low bar.

link to this extract

A website promised free anti-antifa shirts, and alt-righters signed up. It was a trap • Daily Beast

Kelly Weil:


A website that offered free anti-anti-fascist t-shirts for a real far-right march appears to have been a trap by anti-fascists.

On August 18, Trump supporters will host the “National March Against Far-Left Violence” in several cities, organized by a pair of frequent attendees at far-right rallies. Expected participants include members of anti-Muslim group the Proud Boys and people involved in the pro-Trump troll group Patriot Prayer, which has attracted white supremacists. In early July, when march leaders were planning their event, an apparent ally set up a website where marchers could pre-order anti-anti-fascist t-shirts. But the website appears to have been a trap by antifa, who turned around and published the names and addresses they’d collected from the website.

Now the far-right is trying to get their apparent anti-fascist trolls arrested.


Stupid is as stupid does.
link to this extract

Live map of London Underground trains •

Matthew Sommerville:


This map shows all trains (yellow dots) on the London Underground network in approximately real time. Geographic version, or Skyfall version.

I have similar things for the London buses and National Rail, and an awesome bookmarkable train times journey planner.


The Skyfall version is.. it’s much more weird. Sommerville did a version of this back in 2010. Now it’s live again. Gotta love live, open data.
link to this extract

Amazon has YouTube envy • Bloomberg

Lucas Shaw:


For now, it’s a David vs. Goliath battle. YouTube, the largest advertising-supported video site in the world, has about 1.9 billion monthly viewers; Twitch gets about 15 million a day. But the Amazon unit gives creators multiple ways of making money, including paid subscriptions (a feature YouTube added in response), and offers advertisers the appeal of a live, engaged audience. Amazon, which saw its ad sales in the first quarter exceed $2 billion for the first time mostly by selling “sponsored products” slots during product searches, analysts estimate, has already become a credible contender in online advertising to Google and Facebook Inc.

At a recent staff meeting, Twitch CEO Emmett Shear set a target of $1bn in ad sales for Twitch, according to three people present. That’s more than double its current sales. Twitch’s key advantage, besides being live, is its popularity among young men who tend to be resistant to ads. The average Twitch user has stopped paying for cable TV and employs technology to block advertising across the internet. But hundreds of thousands of these hard-to-reach viewers tune in daily to watch top video game streamers, such as Ninja, Twitch’s biggest star.

YouTube has tried to blunt Twitch’s efforts by offering big payments to some of its top creators if they agree not to make exclusive deals with other sites. “YouTube is pretty nervous,” says Chad Stoller, chief innovation officer at media agency UM Global.


You can bet that there’s a lot of synergy between Fortnite and Twitch.
link to this extract

Achieving ultralow wear with stable nanocrystalline metals • Wiley Online Library

John F. Curry:


Recent work suggests that thermally stable nanocrystallinity in metals is achievable in several binary alloys by modifying grain boundary energies via solute segregation. The remarkable thermal stability of these alloys has been demonstrated in recent reports, with many alloys exhibiting negligible grain growth during prolonged exposure to near‐melting temperatures. Pt–Au, a proposed stable alloy consisting of two noble metals, is shown to exhibit extraordinary resistance to wear. Ultralow wear rates, less than a monolayer of material removed per sliding pass, are measured for Pt–Au thin films at a maximum Hertz contact stress of up to 1.1 GPa. This is the first instance of an all‐metallic material exhibiting a specific wear rate on the order of 10−9 mm3 N−1 m−1, comparable to diamond‐like carbon (DLC) and sapphire. Remarkably, the wear rate of sapphire and silicon nitride probes used in wear experiments are either higher or comparable to that of the Pt–Au alloy, despite the substantially higher hardness of the ceramic probe materials.


Translated: they made a platinum-gold alloy that is as hard, or harder, than diamond or sapphire, and you know how hard those mfs are. (The whole thing is available to read free.)
link to this extract

Platforms, speech and truth: policy, policing and impossible choices • Techdirt

Mike Masnick:


I still go back to the solution I’ve been discussing for years: we need to move to a world of protocols instead of platforms, in which transparency rules and (importantly) control is passed down away from the centralized service to the end users. Facebook should open itself up so that end users can decide what content they can see for themselves, rather than making all the decisions in Menlo Park. Ideally, Facebook (and others) should open up so that third party tools can provide their own experiences — and then each person could choose the service or filtering setup that they want. People who want to suck in the firehose, including all the garbage, could do so. Others could choose other filters or other experiences. Move the power down to the ends of the network, which is what the internet was supposed to be good at in the first place. If the giant platforms won’t do that, then people should build more open competitors that will (hell, those should be built anyway)…

…what I’m suggesting is that platforms have to get serious about moving real power out to the ends of their network so that anyone can set up systems for themselves — or look to other third parties (or, even the original platforms themselves for a “default” or for a set of filter choices) for help. In the old days on Usenet there were killfiles. Email got swamped with spam, but there were a variety of anti-spam filters that you could plug-in to filter most of it out. There are ways to manage these complex situations that don’t involve Jack Dorsey choosing who stays on the island and who gets removed this week.
Of course, this would require a fundamental shift in how these platforms operate — and especially in how much control they have. But, given how they keep getting slammed on all sides for the decisions they both do and don’t make, perhaps we’re finally at a point where they’ll consider this alternative.


I sometimes find myself reluctantly agreeing with Masnick, but here I just disagree. Here’s why: Usenet (a decentralised system that anyone could post to) died because of spam, and newsgroups (a bit like Facebook Groups) which got overrun. Killfiles (like blocklists on Twitter) were only useful to a point; once everyone’s given up on a group, the killfile doesn’t improve it.

This is a platform problem, and each has inherent difficulties. The fact that we haven’t hit on the perfect solution doesn’t mean it’s not there.
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.891: when to expect an iPhone launch, monitoring sleep monitors, collapsing bridges, California’s data privacy, and more

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 is powerful – maybe too much so for most. Photo by Kārlis Dambrāns on Flickr.

You can 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 10 links for you. But what if truth isn’t truth? I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 is crazy powerful. Can you handle it? • WSJ

David Pierce:


I’ve found the S Pen a handy tool in conjunction with another of the Note 9’s best features, called DeX. By connecting the phone to a display using an adapter or cable, you can turn the Note into something resembling a desktop. Last year’s dock is no longer required.

All your apps still run, but they open on the external display in an environment more like Windows, with a tool bar and plenty of space for multitasking. Some apps resize to fit the larger screen, including Microsoft Office Adobe Photoshop Express, or even Google’s Chrome browser. Connect a keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth, or use the phone itself as a trackpad. You can even unlock the phone—and use it as a phone—while it powers the desktop environment.


The amazingly versatile Note 9 comes closer than anything I’ve tested to fulfilling my one-true-computer dream. But Samsung doesn’t always implement these features well.

When I pull out the S Pen, the Note 9 offers six things to do, with dozens more available in settings. I get multiple notifications and warnings every time I open DeX. Apps often have to close and reopen to work on the larger screen.

I’ve long complained about Samsung’s unnecessary duplication of Google’s apps, but the Note 9’s bigger issue is that over the past week, it just wouldn’t leave me alone. It bombarded me with pop-ups, new-feature alerts and options I apparently needed to turn on.

Samsung says the barrage is an attempt to help Note users figure out their powerful new device, and the pop-ups mellow out eventually. Yet even when I clicked through the initial wave, I still felt pestered: The Note’s notification tray fills with status reports on things I don’t care about.


The Note is niche in a way that the iPhone X isn’t; it’s almost surely overserving most of its users. Apart from those who really, really need a pen on their phone.
link to this extract

Q: Why do keynote speakers keep suggesting that improving security is possible? A: because keynote speakers make bad life decisions and are poor role models • USENIX

James Mickens is a hilarious speaker:


Some people enter the technology industry to build newer, more exciting kinds of technology as quickly as possible. My keynote will savage these people and will burn important professional bridges, likely forcing me to join a monastery or another penance-focused organization. In my keynote, I will explain why the proliferation of ubiquitous technology is good in the same sense that ubiquitous Venus weather would be good, i.e., not good at all. Using case studies involving machine learning and other hastily-executed figments of Silicon Valley’s imagination, I will explain why computer security (and larger notions of ethical computing) are difficult to achieve if developers insist on literally not questioning anything that they do since even brief introspection would reduce the frequency of git commits. At some point, my microphone will be cut off, possibly by hotel management, but possibly by myself, because microphones are technology and we need to reclaim the stark purity that emerges from amplifying our voices using rams’ horns and sheets of papyrus rolled into cone shapes.


link to this extract

Hacker finds hidden ‘God mode’ on old x86 CPUs • Tom’s Hardware

Paul Wagenseil:


The backdoor completely breaks the protection-ring model of operating-system security, in which the OS kernel runs in ring 0, device drivers run in rings 1 and 2, and user applications and interfaces (“userland”) run in ring 3, furthest from the kernel and with the least privileges. To put it simply, Domas’ God Mode takes you from the outermost to the innermost ring in four bytes.

“We have direct ring 3 to ring 0 hardware privilege escalation,” Domas said. “This has never been done.”

That’s because of the hidden RISC chip, which lives so far down on the bare metal that Domas half-joked that it ought to be thought of as a new, deeper ring of privilege, following the theory that hypervisors and chip-management systems can be considered ring -1 or ring -2.

“This is really ring -4,” he said. “It’s a secret, co-located core buried alongside the x86 chip. It has unrestricted access to the x86.”

The good news is that, as far as Domas knows, this backdoor exists only on VIA C3 Nehemiah chips made in 2003 and used in embedded systems and thin clients. The bad news is that it’s entirely possible that such hidden backdoors exist on many other chipsets.

“These black boxes that we’re trusting are things that we have no way to look into,” he said. “These backdoors probably exist elsewhere.”


It’s almost certain, isn’t it? If it’s not the software or the firmware or the hardware, it’s the software/firmware/hardware that controls the hardware.
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Do smart sleep monitors and trackers actually work? • NY Mag

Lauren L’Amie:


It’s easy to self-diagnose and self-medicate bad sleep because, well, you know it when you feel it. When you’re up late at night Googling “What to do when you can’t sleep,” you’ll likely come across lists of magical apps and devices that promise to help. But Dr. Lev Grinman, a New Jersey–based neurologist who studies sleep disorders, says that most smart sleep technology “isn’t necessarily what a sleep physician would use to gauge how well somebody is sleeping.”

“Everybody wants the do-it-yourself kind of thing,” he says. “A lot of these things are geared toward just the general consumer. Even though they say they’re backed by sleep science, they’re not robustly accurate.” Grinman, like many who study sleep, says we track sleep through movement, sound, heart rate, breathing patterns (snoring), and measuring your actual brainwaves using an electroencephalogram (EEG). But measuring each of these factors alone isn’t accurate enough to determine whether or not your sleep is “bad” or “good.” “Good” sleep, says Grinman, correlates with good habits.

“The trackers can help to some degree, but the most effective treatment for insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy. We’re talking about sleep hygiene,” Grinman says. The same way you brush your teeth so they don’t fall out, Grinman suggests you do the same things to keep your sleep healthy — don’t drink alcohol too close to bedtime, don’t use bright lights, and reserve your bed only for sleep. If you can’t sleep, the combination of these behaviors (or lack of them) affects you much more than the things sleep trackers can measure.

There are a ton of tracking apps that monitor your sleep, but most only track sound and movement: two small components of sleep. Sleep Cycle, one of the most popular sleep-tracking apps in the Apple App Store, promises to wake you during your “lightest” sleep phase. The app uses your phone’s microphone to identify sleep phases by listening to your movements in bed from up to ten inches away, filtering out any “non-sleep movement sounds,” like sirens outside or a baby crying.

“That, to me, is not very accurate,” Dr. Grinman says. “There’s just too many confounding variables. You’re really not going to be able to tell how deep your sleep is based on sound alone.”


I recall a doctor once saying that if you can’t get to sleep, just lie there peacefully; don’t focus on trying to go to sleep. It’s as good as sleep. (And often you then drift off to sleep.)
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Apple September 2018 iPhone event preview • iMore

Rene Ritchie:


unless Apple decides to mic drop, peace out, and retire to spend more time with its money, this year will be no different. Rumors, as always, abound:

• iPhone 9: A 6.1-inch LCD with iPhone X-style design, in iPhone 5c-type colors
• iPhone X2: The next generation OLED iPhone and iPhone Plus, perhaps with Pencil support
• Apple Watch Series 4: With minimized bezels
• iPad Pro 3: With minimized bezels
• New MacBook Air. Finally.
• Coffee Lake MacBook
• Coffee Lake iMac

So, when will Apple hold the iPhone 2018 Event?

This is basically the best worst kept secret in technology. Best, because Apple never tells anyone. Worst, because, since iPhone 5, Apple has announced every new iPhone during a special event held the first or second Tuesday or Wednesday of September.

• iPhone 5 event: September 12, 2012
• iPhone 5s event: September 10, 2013
• iPhone 6 event: September 9, 2014
• iPhone 6s event: September 9, 2015
• iPhone 7 event: September 7, 2016
• iPhone 8/X event: September 12, 2017

Now, past isn’t always predicate, but past events are the best indicator for future events. Apple can and will throw curveballs whenever the company’s logistics or strategy demands.

Still, based on the above pattern, it’s likely we’ll see this year’s event on or around Wednesday, September 12.


(Won’t be September 11, of course.) What is Apple to do with its MacBook Air and MacBook confusion? The Air is a terrific workhorse that suits lots of people at its price, because it has legacy ports. But its screen is ancient. Shouldn’t there be a 13in MacBook, with two USB-C ports (which can then be turned into plenty of legacy ports via add-ons), at the MacBook Air price? That might get USB-C to start moving. It’s in a chicken-refusing-to-lay-the-egg situation at present.
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Don’t do this in production · Stephen Mann

Mann was called in to help find the bugs in an about-to-launch product, where the developers turned out to be eager, but inexperienced:


“Move fast and break things,” they said. It turns out that’s a pretty bad idea when your business relies on a small number of large customers. Broken products tend to scare them off, which in turn tanks your business. There’s a lot to be said for building things that work, but “move slowly and steadily towards a goal” just doesn’t have the same ring.

In reality, there’s a balance between moving fast and and moving slow. It’s difficult to communicate that balance because every type of product demands a different balance. I suppose that intuition comes from experience, which is a terrible answer for someone trying to learn.

What’s a new developer to do?

The natural tendency seems to be asking the internet. It turns out that this is incredibly effective.

It’s also incredibly dangerous.

This company continued to work with me after that product launch. I reviewed a significant amount of code, helped mentor their developers, and built new projects for them. Everything went swimmingly.

One day, I ran into a section of code that triggered my spidey sense. I could have sworn that I had seen it before. Sure enough, after pasting a line into a search engine, I found the exact section of code in a blog post. Naturally I read the whole thing, right up to the line that said, “Don’t do this in production.“

Yet here it was, tipping its hat at me from the front lines of a production codebase.

It didn’t take long to find many sections of code from similar blog posts. Almost all of the blog posts either wrote a disclaimer or should have written one. They all solved one small piece of a problem, but took many liberties in their solution to make it simpler to read. It’s understandable. Most readers appreciate brevity when learning a concept.


Ah, the joys of StackOverflow. Great when you’re learning, but as he says – dangerous if used unwarily.
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The Italy bridge collapse and the end of infrastructure • The Atlantic

Ian Bogost:


There’s an old chestnut about infrastructure that goes, Infrastructure is everything you don’t notice—until it fails. It’s a definition that works for any kind of infrastructure, too: big or small, visible or invisible, bridges and garage doors, electric grids and Wi-Fi routers. Infrastructure is everything you take for granted. And you only notice that you take it for granted when it breaks…

…age and decay aren’t the only causes of infrastructural collapse. A portion of Interstate 85 in Atlanta collapsed in 2017 after a fire lit underneath it by a homeless man raged into an inferno. And earlier this year, a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University in Miami collapsed, killing six people. The bridge was brand new, making its collapse a failure of engineering, not of maintenance.

It’s not just bridges and roads breaking. Mark Zuckerberg has claimed that Facebook is a kind of social infrastructure, but it feels broken now, too. This week, at the Defcon computer-security conference, hackers demonstrated how to gain back-door access to voting machines used in 18 states. There’s evidence that Russia has hacked the U.S. power grid, along with nuclear and commercial infrastructure, too. The prevalence of badly secured internet-connected data, from emails to DNA samples to credit reports, has made all information vulnerable. Last year, 143 million Americans’ personal information, including Social Security numbers, were lifted from the credit agency Equifax’s servers.  

When these incidents become so frequent and so pervasive—or even just when they feel like they do—the meaning of infrastructure changes. As I wrote in the wake of the Equifax breach, “With over half of the entire U.S. adult population potentially exposed, what’s left to do but shrug and sigh?” Once they become perceived as generally untrustworthy, bridges and voting systems and utilities and the rest don’t recede into the background so easily anymore. If infrastructure always fails, you always notice it. Will this bridge I’m driving over hold? Will this vote I’m casting be counted? Will this personal data remain private?

No longer is infrastructure something invisible, something you can take for granted. Instead, it’s something that might work, or might not. Not plainly calamitous—most bridges don’t fall—but something precarious. Something that might not be trustworthy, that might wind up biting you for having put faith in it.


As he says: when you stop trusting it, do you stop using it?
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The unlikely activists who took on Silicon Valley — and won • The New York Times

Nicholas Confessore:


The way Alastair Mactaggart usually tells the story of his awakening — the way he told it even before he became the most improbable, and perhaps the most important, privacy activist in America — begins with wine and pizza in the hills above Oakland, Calif. It was a few years ago, on a night Mactaggart and his wife had invited some friends over for dinner. One was a software engineer at Google, whose search and video sites are visited by over a billion people a month. As evening settled in, Mactaggart asked his friend, half-seriously, if he should be worried about everything Google knew about him. “I expected one of those answers you get from airline pilots about plane crashes,” Mactaggart recalled recently. “You know — ‘Oh, there’s nothing to worry about.’ ” Instead, his friend told him there was plenty to worry about. If people really knew what we had on them, the Google engineer said, they would flip out…

…He learned that there was no real limit on the information companies could collect or buy about him — and that just about everything they could collect or buy, they did. They knew things like his shoe size, of course, and where he lived, but also roughly how much money he made, and whether he was in the market for a new car. With the spread of smartphones and health apps, they could also track his movements or whether he had gotten a good night’s sleep. Once facial-recognition technology was widely adopted, they would be able to track him even if he never turned on a smartphone.


Thus begins a terrific long read on the man who got California legislators to pass some worthwhile privacy legislation back in June – because they were terrified that Mactaggart would win a poll to introduce more rigorous privacy legislation. (Thank Jim C for the link.)
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Nvidia shrugs off crypto-mining crash, touts live ray-tracing GPUs, etc • The Register

Katyanna Quach:


The demand for GPUs grew 40% from last year to account for $2.66bn in sales, we’re told. Popular online titles such as Fortnite and PUBG have helped Nvidia in the gaming department, which grew 52% in terms of revenue to $1.8bn. The boom in deep learning is also accelerating its data center business by 83%, to $760m, where its graphics cards are used as math accelerators. Nvidia’s automotive area is smaller with $161m in revenues, up 13% year-over-year. Its professional visualization arm grew 20% to $281m.

It was weakest in cryptocurrency mining. People just aren’t buying Nvidia cards for crafting digital fun bucks any more, relatively speaking, and won’t for a while, it seems. So that’s good news for folks unable to get hold of an Nvidia card due to hoarding by crypto-coin nerds.

“Our revenue outlook had anticipated cryptocurrency-specific products declining to approximately $100 million, while actual crypto-specific product revenue was $18 million, and we now expect a negligible contribution going forward,” the biz reported during its the earnings call with analysts on Thursday.

A few months back CEO Jensen Huang said a shortage of its chips – particularly the GeForce series – was down to mining Ethereum. The prices skyrocketed for a brief period of time, have been declining, and are going back to normal levels. Huang previously said Nvidia were not targeting the crypto industry, and wanted to reserve GeForce parts for gamers.


Basically, Nvidia expects zero revenue from people buying for mining in future. The candle burned bright, but it burnt out.
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How global smartphone sales growth ground to a halt • Bloomberg

Robert Fenner goes over some familiar ground, and finishes with a question:


IDC expects the [smartphone shipments] market to go backward again in 2018, although by just 0.2%, which would mark two straight years of declines. This will be driven by China, where demand is falling on signs of saturation and people sticking with their devices for longer. From 2019, growth is likely to resume but at the subdued annual pace of about 3%, which will continue through 2022, according to IDC.

Q6. What will it take to turn things around?

The rollout of 5G should help provide a boost as consumers seek to get hold of devices that can download a feature length movie within seconds. IDC expects commercial 5G devices to appear in the second half of 2019 with a more substantial ramp-up in 2020. While China has certainly matured, there are still low smartphone penetration rates in India, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, home to more than half the Earth’s population. New innovations could also provide a catalyst. While Samsung has been working toward making foldable screens a reality, turning a handset into a tablet, such a radical design hasn’t been released yet. A leap forward in battery technology is another change that could attract users tired of the never-ending search for a power outlet. Augmented and virtual reality have made only limited appearances on smartphones so far, but as processors get more powerful the opportunities for new content and features could spark demand.


I’m not sure 5G will drive more sales; 4G is plenty fast (where you can get it) and you can bet carriers will charge a premium for it. Why pay, when you can stream a feature film, and you can’t see the difference between HD and 4K on a phone screen? Though it might at least be a reason to upgrade rather than just hang on to a phone.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified