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A selection of 10 links for you. But what if truth isn’t truth? I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.
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.
PHOTO: EMILY PRAPUOLENIS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
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.
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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
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.
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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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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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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“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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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 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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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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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