Start Up No.955: all Amazon all the time!, busting tech’s mythology, SEC rolls ICOs, knitting in code, and more


Everest: the highest mountain, but not the furthest you can get from the Earth’s centre. CC-licensed photo by Jerome Bon on Flickr.

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A selection of 14 links for you. Neither inflammable nor flammable. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Everything on Amazon is Amazon! • The New York Times

John Herrman:

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There are vanishingly few types of consumer goods that you can’t buy, in some form, on Amazon. But it is missing plenty of brands. In 2009, the company started selling products under its own name. It soon moved beyond the first AmazonBasics — items including budget electronics and batteries — to a wider range of Amazon-branded products. This was followed by an explosion of company-owned brands, including dozens with Amazon-free names.

Lark & Ro sells women’s wear, Buttoned Down sells men’s dress shirts; Pike Street sells linens; Strathwood sells furniture. These brands are intended to stand on their own, sort of. They are associated with Amazon, and listed on the site’s dozens of different contexts as “Our Brand” or “by Amazon” or “An Amazon Brand.” (Some new brands are undercover but then blow their cover, as in “Amazon Brand – Solimo Pasta, Thin Spaghetti, 16oz.”)

A lot of these brands — most explicitly the Basics products and various household staples — appear to be straightforward margin plays. Others, clothing brands in particular, fill gaps left by companies that have steered clear of the platform altogether. Others, well, who’s to say?

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link to this extract


What is the highest point on Earth as measured from Earth’s center? • NOAA

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Mount Everest, located in Nepal and Tibet, is usually said to be the highest mountain on Earth. Reaching 29,029 feet at its summit, Everest is indeed the highest point above global mean sea level—the average level for the ocean surface from which elevations are measured. But the summit of Mt. Everest is not the farthest point from Earth’s center.

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You’ll have to read on to find out. You’ve probably never heard of the mountain whose summit is the one. Remembering that the Earth is an oblate spheroid. And no, it’s not Kilimanjaro.
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A leaky database of SMS text messages exposed password resets and two-factor codes • TechCrunch

Zack Whittaker:

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A security lapse has exposed a massive database containing tens of millions of text messages, including password reset links, two-factor codes, shipping notifications and more.

The exposed server belongs to Voxox (formerly Telcentris), a San Diego, Calif.-based communications company. The server wasn’t protected with a password, allowing anyone who knew where to look to peek in and snoop on a near-real-time stream of text messages.

For Sébastien Kaul, a Berlin-based security researcher, it didn’t take long to find.

Although Kaul found the exposed server on Shodan, a search engine for publicly available devices and databases, it was also attached to to one of Voxox’s own subdomains. Worse, the database — running on Amazon’s Elasticsearch — was configured with a Kibana front-end, making the data within easily readable, browsable and searchable for names, cell numbers and the contents of the text messages themselves.

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Everyone gets hacked. Sometimes, they just do it to themselves.
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Facebook, Google, Amazon, and the collapse of the tech mythology • The Atlantic

Alexis Madrigal:

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Where does this almost unbelievably bad news cycle end for these companies? And what if the news stays bad, but the people using their products can’t extract themselves from the platforms tech has built?

A historical analog for this fall from grace does exist. There was a time when Americans loved and talked about the transcontinental railroads the way we loved and talked about the internet. The steel lines spanning the nation were, as the Stanford historian Richard White put it, “the epitome of modernity.” “[Americans] were in love with railroads because railroads defined the age. The claims made for railroads by men who wrote about them were always extravagant,” White wrote in Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America. “The kind of hyperbole recently lavished on the Internet was once the mark of railroad talk.”

Then the public turned on the transcontinental railroads. “The innovations entrepreneurs brought to the railroads—financial mechanisms, pricing innovations, and political techniques—were as harmful to the public, to the republic, and even to the corporation as they were profitable to many of the innovators,” White continued.

The railroads became some of the most despised institutions in the country and a core reason why monopoly became such a terrible word. When the railroad mythology collapsed, it helped create an entire political ideology: the progressivism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

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link to this extract


SEC settles enforcement actions over two initial coin offerings – WSJ

Dave Michaels:

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both settlements require the companies to file audited financial statements and other disclosures about their businesses, providing the information that investors typically need to decide if a stock is a good investment.

Paragon and CarrierEQ, which conducted unregistered coin offerings, each agreed to pay $250,000 in civil penalties and to notify investors they are eligible for refunds if they still own the token or can show they sold it at a loss. Paragon sold to 8,300 investors, while CarrierEQ’s coin offering reached 2,500 buyers, the SEC said.

Paragon, founded by Russian internet entrepreneur Egor Lavrov and former model Jessica VerSteeg, staged a widely noticed coin sale in August 2017 that raised about $12 million, according to the SEC. The company said it would fuse blockchain, the technology underpinning virtual currencies, with the marijuana industry.

The startup launched at a time when many initial coin offerings used athletes and other celebrities to generate buzz. Paragon enlisted The Game, a rapper, to tout its coin. The company said it could control the supply of its token in order to stabilize or raise its price, the SEC said in a settlement order.

Paragon was one of hundreds of coin issuers identified by The Wall Street Journal in May as displaying signs of possible fraud. The Journal’s analysis reviewed the companies’ marketing documents and identified red flags such as plagiarized language, promises of guaranteed returns and missing or fake executive teams.

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First two of scores. The ICO joyride is over.
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‘Nothing on this page is real’: How lies become truth in online America – The Washington Post

Eli Saslow:

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The only light in the house came from the glow of three computer monitors, and Christopher Blair, 46, sat down at a keyboard and started to type. His wife had left for work and his children were on their way to school, but waiting online was his other community, an unreality where nothing was exactly as it seemed. He logged onto his website and began to invent his first news story of the day.

“BREAKING,” he wrote, pecking out each letter with his index fingers as he considered the possibilities. Maybe he would announce that Hillary Clinton had died during a secret overseas mission to smuggle more refugees into America. Maybe he would award President Trump the Nobel Peace Prize for his courage in denying climate change.

A new message popped onto Blair’s screen from a friend who helped with his website. “What viral insanity should we spread this morning?” the friend asked.

“The more extreme we become, the more people believe it,” Blair replied.

He had launched his new website on Facebook during the 2016 presidential campaign as a practical joke among friends — a political satire site started by Blair and a few other liberal bloggers who wanted to make fun of what they considered to be extremist ideas spreading throughout the far right. In the last two years on his page, America’s Last Line of Defense, Blair had made up stories about California instituting sharia, former president Bill Clinton becoming a serial killer, undocumented immigrants defacing Mount Rushmore, and former president Barack Obama dodging the Vietnam draft when he was 9. “Share if you’re outraged!” his posts often read, and thousands of people on Facebook had clicked “like” and then “share,” most of whom did not recognize his posts as satire. Instead, Blair’s page had become one of the most popular on Facebook among Trump-supporting conservatives over 55.

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Blair is himself astonished by peoples’ credulousness. He’s a Democrat, and earning thousands per month from it.

And then Saslow finds someone who does believe it. And then it all rolls around.
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The wartime spies who used knitting as an espionage tool • Atlas Obscura

Natalie Zarrelli:

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During World War 1, A grandmother in Belgium knitted at her window, watching the passing trains. As one train chugged by, she made a bumpy stitch in the fabric with her two needles. Another passed, and she dropped a stitch from the fabric, making an intentional hole. Later, she would risk her life by handing the fabric to a soldier—a fellow spy in the Belgian resistance, working to defeat the occupying German force.

Whether women knitted codes into fabric or used stereotypes of knitting women as a cover, there’s a history between knitting and espionage. “Spies have been known to work code messages into knitting, embroidery, hooked rugs, etc,” according to the 1942 book A Guide to Codes and Signals. During wartime, where there were knitters, there were often spies; a pair of eyes, watching between the click of two needles.

When knitters used knitting to encode messages, the message was a form of steganography, a way to hide a message physically (which includes, for example, hiding morse code somewhere on a postcard, or digitally disguising one image within another). If the message must be low-tech, knitting is great for this; every knitted garment is made of different combinations of just two stitches: a knit stitch, which is smooth and looks like a “v”, and a purl stitch, which looks like a horizontal line or a little bump. By making a specific combination of knits and purls in a predetermined pattern, spies could pass on a custom piece of fabric and read the secret message, buried in the innocent warmth of a scarf or hat.

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And lots more examples; you can see why a male-oriented armed forces would completely overlook such communication. (Via Graham Cluley.)
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Apple’s new map: has Apple closed the gap with Google’s map? • Justin O’Beirne

O’Beirne does periodic, incredibly detailed (and fascinating) updates comparing Apple’s maps with Google’s. This is no exception, looking at the space where Apple has introduced new maps in California, which turns out to have some gotchas in tiny towns:

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It’s surprising that Apple mislabels the general store because TechCrunch said that Apple’s vans were capturing addresses and points of interest along the roads:

“After the downstream data has been cleaned up of license plates and faces, it gets run through a bunch of computer vision programming to pull out addresses, street signs and other points of interest.”

But what’s even stranger is that “Markleeville General Store” is written on both the front and the side of the building—and according to TechCrunch:

“The computer vision system Apple is using can absolutely recognize storefronts and business names.”

Yet the businesses that Apple is missing—but that Google has—all have signs along the road.

This suggests that Apple isn’t algorithmically extracting businesses and other places out of the imagery its vans are collecting.

Instead, all of the businesses shown on Apple’s Markleeville map seem to be coming from Yelp, Apple’s primary place data provider…

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It seems that while Google uses algorithms on visual data, Apple is using a lot of low-cost humans. Both have their advantages.
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It’s easy to fact check Trump’s lies: he tells the same ones all the time • Washington Post

Daniel Dale is the Toronto Star’s correspondent in Washington, and fact-checks Trump all the time:

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Even the best of Trump’s interviewers seldom challenge him when he lies to their faces — despite the fact that almost all of the lies have been fact-checked before.

Trump regularly makes 20 to 30 false claims in his rally speeches. But if you watched a network news segment, read an Associated Press article or glanced at the front page of the newspaper in the city that hosted him, you’d typically have no idea that he was so wholly inaccurate.

If a car salesman told you 36 untrue things in 75 minutes, that would probably be the first thing you told your friends about your trip to the dealership. It should have been the first thing we all told our readers about Trump’s August rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

This issue is so urgent because Trump is getting worse and worse. In 2017, he averaged three false claims per day. In 2018, it is about nine per day. In the month leading up to the midterms: a staggering 26 per day. By my count, he’s now at 3,749 false claims since his inauguration. The Post, which tracks both false and misleading claims, has tallied up to 6,420.

Meanwhile, the press continues to blast out the lies unnoted. Two weeks ago, Axios and the AP uncritically tweeted his nonsense about the United States being the only nation to grant birthright citizenship. (They updated after they were criticized.) It happened again Monday, when Trump earned credulous tweets and headlines from ABC, NBC and others for his groundless assertion about “massively infected” ballots in Florida.

There’s nothing especially strategic about much of Trump’s lying; he does it because that is what he has always done. But the president also knows the lies will be broadcast unfiltered to tens of millions of people — by some of the very outlets he disparages as “fake news.”

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As he says, it’s important that people know *on what topics* Trump is being misleading – though it generally boils down to “all of them”.
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Trump’s Iran oil export sanctions aren’t living up to the hype • Bloomberg

Julian Lee:

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These were billed as the “strongest sanctions in history,” intended to prevent the Persian Gulf country from exporting any oil at all. But the reality hasn’t quite lived up to the hype: In the six months before they fully took effect, the impact of the Trump sanctions looks remarkably similar to those of his predecessor in 2012.

With the November deadline looming, it became clear that buyers which agreed to reduce their purchases of Iranian oil might be able secure waivers from the sanctions. Back in August, Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said these would be “few and far between.” This week, it emerged that the US has agreed to let eight countries keep buying Iranian oil.

Details of the deal are sketchy, although Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has promised they will be revealed on Monday. The eight include China and India, the biggest buyers of Iran’s oil, as well as other key U.S. allies in Asia, Japan and South Korea. Turkey will also be permitted to continue buying, but the softening doesn’t extend to Europe. It isn’t yet clear how frequently the waivers will need to be re-validated, or by how much buyers will need to reduce their purchases to avoid penalties.

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If China can still buy Iranian oil, the “sanctions” aren’t really going to hurt it much.
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Never mind the iPad — where are the full-time Android tablet users? • Medium

I wrote a thing over at Medium:

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It is absolutely true that Android-powered tablets sell in greater numbers than iPads. You can see that in this graph, sourced from IDC and Strategy Analytics (IDC for the total tablet numbers, Strategy Analytics for the Windows tablet figures):

If you go strictly on the number of tablets sold, then Androids have sold plenty more than iPads or Windows tablets (same sources as before):

They also tend to be cheaper than iPads (though that’s not necessarily true since Apple cut the price on the entry-level iPad earlier this year).

So given all that, here’s my question: why aren’t we talking about full-time Android tablet users, rather than discussing whether the iPad Pro can replace/supplant your laptop? After all, Android tablets have pretty much the same apps as iOS, and you can even access a file system if you want.

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I also asked the folks over at Android Police for their input – which is in the piece too. It’s quite surprising.
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Facebook and the age of manipulation • New Yorker

Evan Osnos:

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The most disturbing revelation is that Facebook employed Definers Public Affairs, a conservative Washington-based consultant, to promote negative stories about Facebook’s competitors by pushing them on the NTK Network, which calls itself “a unique news website that brings together data points from all platforms to tell the whole story.” NTK is not, in fact, a news Web site; it shares offices and staff with Definers. As the Times reported, “Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. While the NTK Network does not have a large audience of its own, its content is frequently picked up by popular conservative outlets, including Breitbart.” In other words, Facebook employed a political P.R. firm that circulated exactly the kind of pseudo-news that Facebook has, in its announcements, sought to prevent from eroding Americans’ confidence in fact versus fiction.

On another front, Definers also sought to discredit Freedom from Facebook, a nonprofit opposition group, by encouraging reporters to write about its ties to George Soros, the liberal financier who is a subject of obsessive, often conspiratorial attention in conservative circles. On Thursday, Sarah Miller, a spokesperson for Freedom from Facebook, told me, “Congress and the Federal Trade Commission should come to terms with the fact that Facebook will never change, unless they force it to—and they should, without delay, to protect our democracy.” (On Thursday, as the report of the P.R. firm’s activities stirred criticism, Facebook said that it had ended its relationship. The company said that it had not asked the firm to circulate false stories.)

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Alphabet Verily stops Smart Lens, glucose-measuring contact lens • CNBC

Christina Farr:

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Verily, Alphabet’s life sciences arm, has paused work on its so-called “smart lens” program, which was aiming to put tiny sensors on contact lenses to measure blood sugar levels in tears.

If it worked, the lenses could help diabetics track their glucose levels in real time and in less invasive ways than the traditional meters that require piercing the skin. But in a blog post on Friday, Verily said that after four years of research it has determined that detecting blood sugar in tears is a massive — and potentially insurmountable — technical and scientific undertaking.

“Our clinical work on the glucose-sensing lens demonstrated that there was insufficient consistency in our measurements of the correlation between tear glucose and blood glucose concentrations to support the requirements of a medical device,” the company said.

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This is a project with a long, long heritage going back to 2004 and which has gone from the University of Waterloo to Microsoft Research and on to Google (and hence to Verily). Another big PR scheme bites the dust.
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Bitcoin giveaway scams are flourishing on Twitter. They’re probably coming from Russia • Buzzfeed News

Jane Lytvynenko:

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A BuzzFeed News analysis of the Target and G Suite account hacks suggest the perpetrators may have been the same ones responsible for similar schemes back in March. BuzzFeed News examined the websites touted in the Target and G Suite promoted tweet scams and determined they share a web server that also hosts sites like btc-back.net, elonmusk.gift, and eth-giving.com.

While domain registration information for those scam sites is hidden, other sites hosted the server are registered to Russian names with associated emails, and Russian addresses. A QR posted in one of the tweets was hosted on a Russian domain. The server currently hosts 600 Russian and English-language websites for illegal pharmacies, escort services, and a business that promises to improve the levels of World of Warcraft characters. Many of them appear to be based in Russia.

“The phrasing of the tweet themselves seem to suggest a Russian or Ukrainian language actor,” Kalember said. The researcher has also examined phishing emails sent by scammers to marketing and social media managers, which ultimately help them post from verified accounts like @Target. According to Kalember, those emails also show strong connections to Eastern European actors.

Twitter declined a request for technical details on the promoted scam ads.

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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

17 thoughts on “Start Up No.955: all Amazon all the time!, busting tech’s mythology, SEC rolls ICOs, knitting in code, and more

  1. re. Android tablets: and now I don’t know if I should comment here or there ;-p

    – You said in a previous post that “lack of updates” was cited as the main issue, yet it doesn’t appear in the Medium piece. What gives ?
    – “App devs don’t pay attention to Android tablets”. Which apps devs ? There are tablets layout for MS Office (and all Offices really) Mail, Browser; news readers, bookreaders… I’m sure some Apps aren’t well-optimized, but which ones ? Are they remotely mainstream ? FB apps come to mind, a bit (they work, just don’t look very nice).
    – “Most Android tablets aren’t any good”. “Do not have equivalence” That’s unusable comments. Most bread isn’t any good, most chocolate isn’t any good. Yet I love bread and chocolate, the good kind. At most, we can derive from that than buying Android has a higher cognitive load than buying iOS, which is probably true, iOS is mostly about lightening the cognitive load in exchange for weighing down the financial load. Comes with choice and variety. Also, most Android phones at least used to be, probably still are if you go by SKUs, “not very good”. Yet the best phones in the world also are Androids ^^
    – “Same UI, no love from Google”. Huh ? 2 big issues:
    a) That’s untrue. Android tablets pioneered pen support, windowing, homescreen widgets, mouse support, full USB peripherals support… which are really key for a nice tablet UI/UX. People misread the folding of the “Emergency Tablet Variant” v3.x into mainline Android hence the random “since 4.x” (why not 2.x ? 5.x ?). But that was folding in, not killing off.
    b) even if having the same code base for phone and tablets was a Bad Thing (which it isn’t) for tablets, it makes a lot of sense since the line between the two is blurry and subjective. You’ve got Android devices at every 0.5″ size from 5″ to 13″ (the 7.5″ to 8″ zone is a bit sparse though). My 7.1″ phone is tablet-size, We shouldn’t I be allowed split-screen on it ?
    c) if things weren’t identical across sizes, we’d get “Fragmentation !” alerts anyway ;-p Though those have died down for some reason since Apple has started selling more devices, with more varying features…
    – “tablet black hole”. That’s gratuitous, please clarify: what black hole ? Features ? Models ? Sales ? Apps ? Untrue for all of those, hence the vagueness of the criticism I’d say.
    – “Performance level and consistency”. That’s true, especially level. I’m puzzled by the rotation example though: I barely ever rotate my tablets and certainly don’t mind the speed of that. That raises the question of whether the guy is referring to actual use, or theoretical speed, or superficial feelings, or clutching at straws. Once an app is launched, I barely ever have to slow down to use it…

    In the end, I see innuendo, nothing specific except for performance, and I’d argue most users don’t need the level of performance iPads have reached.

    And I’ve got a new anecdote. This week-end I came across someone I know isn’t rolling in money who was sporting an iPad Pro. Because they need to annotate partitions. Erm,… if its only for scribbling “Forte” at al. on PDFs (which it is, I checked), any tablets will do, use a conductive pen, or even your finger, any music sheet app supports annotations. So that person really strained her budget for a useless redundant feature, now is struggling with her iPad’s low storage (because extra storage is expensive on iPads) and has to carry a fragile expensive external storage… Mindless harping on idiotic memes has real-life negative impact on real people. I didn’t even play my spiel to her to avoid distress.

    • I asked the people who I thought would know best, or know where to find them. They drew a blank.
      If you want clarification, go and ask them. They have a website and everything.
      I think you don’t realise what an outlier you are, but the reality seems to be that people don’t care about doing work on Android tablets. They just don’t. One can argue about the why. But you should accept that that is the reality. Otherwise you are going to have a very unhappy time of it.

      • What you got back was barely at the level of gossip. Certainly not news, not analysis, not fact-finding. So some guy say there was a black hole, another that there are no apps, a third that screen rotation is slow. This is all immaterial, and imprecise, and arguably false… I understand you’re not interested in the topic and just want to quickly dispose of it, but I only started reacting because of the amount of lies and spite thrown at Android tablets.. That 4 of your tweeter pals don’t like Android tablets isn’t serious investigation. As you said yourself, you’ve got to do it and stick with it to be able/justified in making pronouncements of this type. I’m not seeing that, and that they didn’t do it doesn’t prove much. I’ve tried to be exemplarily specific about why I think Android works well on tablets. I haven’t been met by same.

        The reality is that everyone around me is doing a lot more a lot more than “watching videos” on Android tablets. Maybe journalism is one of the things that’s better done on iPads. But that 4-person twitter poll doesn’t move the needle.

        There was even one commenter in the previous post who said bar 2 distinct killer apps (one on each platform), he could work on either.

        Again, I’ve only got 3 issues:
        – reading all the time that Android tablets cannot do much, when they can do everything most home users and workers need.
        – reading that iPads are that close to being able to be one’s only computer, only missing
        – people being driven to get iPads by that madness, even when it’s suboptimal for them because cost or features. Getting an iPad is rarely *bad*, but it’s often wasteful and silly, and does have drawbacks in many cases (storage, mouse, HDMI/dongles, widgets, lock-in…).

        What bothers me is not just that crap is being said, but that it’s random, unfounded crap, that seems to change from one day to the next but always remain unspecific to the point of being immaterial. I’ll ask again, but was the issue with updates ? That’ was the big issue… last week…

      • “Four of my tweeter pals”? They’re the staff of Android Police. I was asking them to tell me about where the professional Android tablet users are. And they came back negative. I tried to frame my question as neutrally as I could. They didn’t come back neutral. (On the “updates” point: that came from someone else. He’s a developer. Equally, he doesn’t like Google, so you might discount his view.)

        I’ve only got one issue: you keep saying people can do it all on Android tablets. I can find people who “do it all” (that they need to) on iPads. So where are the people doing all their work on Android tablets? I keep asking for examples. I ask here. I ask on Android Police. I ask on Medium. I crosspost the Medium article to Hacker News.

        It got one comment before it vanished from view out of indifference:

        I have bought two Samsung Galaxy Tabs (from different generations) for my mother and they are obviously subpar devices. Windows will minimize and close left and right; basic text editing it jumpy and therefore takes forever; clicks don’t always register; the screen randomly auto-rotates; they ship with outdated versions of Android and receive no OS updates, etc. Mind you, the Samsung Galaxy Tabs are considered mid-range Android tablets so I can’t imagine how awful cheaper tablets are.
        So no, I can’t imagine using Android tablets as a professional considering they work so poorly for even the most basic usage.

        (If you like you can read all this commenter’s comments. I don’t think he’s an iPad loon, or a rabidly anti-Android fanatic. After all he bought two Samsung Galaxy Tabs.)

        At this point I have to consider two hypotheses:
        1 – you’re completely right and all the “Android-tablet-for-work” people are just hiding, impossible to find in web stats, download stats, web forums and news sites, never documented by anyone anywhere.
        2 – you’re wrong, and there aren’t any “Android-tablet-for-work” people to speak of.

        So far the evidence is leaning more and more towards 2. I’m always willing to be proved wrong, but there eventually comes a time when one has to conclude that there isn’t, in fact, a diplodocus swimming in the waters of Loch Ness.

        One very last point: the developer I quoted above also said: “I would switch to a Surface before I ever moved to Android.” I suspect that’s the decision tree many would go through: not “iPad or Android?”, but “iPad or Surface?”. As in the developer field, Android tablets are last in line for attention.

      • I can only urge you to do what you say is needed for “iPad as a computer”: give it an honest and earnest go yourself. I’m sure it’ll be jarring at first because some of your key apps will be missing and you’ll have to look for equivalents and workaround. But I’m also sure you won’t find Android tablets incapable of doing anything but play videos.

      • Thanks, I’m happy with the iPad. I don’t need to be part of an experiment of your devising. The reason this has come up at all is because we cannot find evidence that anyone, to any appreciable extent, actually does this voluntarily. And that’s the point.

      • No, the reason this has come up at all is that
        1- you say Android tablets are only good to watch videos
        2- You say to appreciate the iPad’s capabilities one has to commit to it for some time, but won’t do so for Androids, yet won’t be shy about judging it.
        3- The experiment is not “of my own devising”, but your very own words about what is required to have an informed opinion.

      • I keep on saying: where is the evidence that people do anything but use Android tablets for basic functions? Where are the people saying they use theirs for their professional work? For the iPad Pro, I can find two people straight off the bat, not including myself, right now. I had another two people in my Twitter feed today (but: that’s going to be a distorted view.) Android tablet users? Nada.

        Back in 2013, when I sought tablet-only users for a feature, all the responses I got when I sought them via the Guardian Technology Twitter feed (which had about a million users) and other avenues were from iPad users. A reminder: Android has about 85% of the UK smartphone installed base.

        I ask on Medium. I ask here. I ask the team of Android Police. Absolute blank. I would feel justified in saying there is nobody who is using Android tablets for professional work (beyond single-use tasks, eg cash registers or CCTV monitors). The question isn’t whether one can. It’s whether anyone does. And if people don’t, then why? The Android Police team offered their view. But you didn’t like that view, so you discounted it – which is a bad way to do research. You have to listen to what people tell you instead of sticking to a fixed view along the lines of “they’re all wrong, they should!” That’s the language of toddlers, not adults.

      • Untrue, you’ve had 2 people on this very site tell you they do work w/ Andorid tabs, me and “iPad or Android, I don’t care, depends on one app” guy. I’m fairly sure that things are different than in 2013 (that’s year 3 Anno iPadi) too.

        That’s for pro stuff. And keep in mind most people don’t do anything fancy with their tablets. I’m fine with Android being “only able to do basic stuff” because a) that’s already way more than “just watch videos, duh !”, and b) basic stuff is what 75% of computer users do. I’m interested in what IT does for the common guy way more than by what it does for edge cases. Again, if you want to create music, pics or vids, an iPad is probably your best choice. Very few people do that, and making Joe Regular buy an iPad because it runs Scrivener is unconscionable. And far too common.

        I had to go to the mall today, after a delivery failed (the guy was using his Android phone to log deliveries). Did a bit of shopping while I was there. 3 shops had tablets for employees, 2 of them Android. I picked up Thai food on the way back, the servers had an Android order-taking system (I think it does back office too). Or maybe the voices in my head are making me see things too.

        I’m trying to find it in me to make a detailed Medium post w/ screenshots of OK Android tablet apps (the first one will be the home page: see of icom vs bitchin’ widget ^^)… I’m terrible at creating unstructured exposés though. I’m OK at answering questions, not at creating a narrative from scratch, I keep getting lost in the story’s possible angles AND in the details and go on loops criticizing my own work. Back when I had marketing docs and novella-length sales proposal to write, I lay some ground work but always did most when it was do-or-die; I can’t feel that urgency for a Medium thingy. I tried to write 2 pieces for a blogger friend.. I’m pathetic at it.

      • You said: “I’m interested in what IT does for the common guy way more than by what it does for edge cases. Again, if you want to create music, pics or vids, an iPad is probably your best choice. Very few people do that, and making Joe Regular buy an iPad because it runs Scrivener is unconscionable.”

        So your argument seems to be that iPads are overspecced for most people, and that they can do the things they need to do with Android tablets. I bring you around, as I keep doing, as I do again and again, to the question: where then are the people who are using Android tablets to do their individual work? The non-edge-case people?

        I don’t count Android order-taking systems (or iPad order-taking systems, for that matter) as “people using Android tablets/iPads for work”. A few years ago they’d have been Windows boxes (or NEC registers), and at a guess the back office is running on Windows, or in the far distance on a server on a LAMP stack. That isn’t people *electing* to use those devices; they’re simply using what they’re given.

        Writing is about thinking clearly. If you can organise your thoughts and your argument, you can organise your writing. Simple as that, really.

  2. Ok, I’ll be starting new topics for separate issues because the comments layout is a pain on mobile, for level-3 replys it’s mostly margins, and there’s several topics so 1 post per topic. BTW, I’m typing this on my mom’s Android desktop, with the comfort of a mouse, a large sceeen, and a keyboard.

    re. iPads overserve. I’ve got 3 issues really:
    1- Apple in general is a lock-in machine aimed at sucking the most possible money out of users suppliers and partners. That’s fine and as expected for a commercial company, but the lock-in aspect makes it disctinctly effective and painful, see 90s-00s Microsoft. I feel extra caution is needed before directing unwitting users in that direction. On the Andorid side, when an OEM goes margin-crazy à la Samsung then Huawei, you can easily switch to another. Bad for them, but good for us.
    2- iOS ain’t that good. It probably used to be, it still has some fortes (UI reactivity, security updates, lagless sound input), but Android has mostly pulled up or even ahead w/ general ease of use and pleasantness of UI/UX; and Android even has distinct advantages (widgets, SD cards, USB peripheral incl. storage and mouse, even on Intents and defaults Apple is still lagging esp. Browsers with addons…)
    3- Flagships in general and iPads in particular not only overserve, but also miss the mark. We’re just now learning that the otherwise amazing new iPad pro is very fragile. Who wants a very fragile tablet ? By now, most tablet purchases I see are because “the kids broke it”. In the real world, people need TV shows to distract the kids in the most dire circumstances (in the car, ADSL down, 4G down), that means SD cards, HDMI out in case there’s a TV around, plenty of devices so there’s one per kid and adult…. Flagships in general and iPads in particular go counter to that. Also, most people just want mail, web, news, messaging, shows, dumb games, weather… no need for a flagship.

    • 1. So Google’s ChromeOS isn’t aiming to lock people into Google Docs, Sheets, etc? I can edit those directly via an API in MS Office or a third-party app? Don’t mistake hardware lock-in and software lock-in. They occur in different ways.
      2. iOS v Android UX is most definitely a matter of opinion. That’s all that’s worth saying on this point.
      3. You need to decide whether you think the iPad overserves or underserves. Above you’re saying it underserves (at least compared to Android tablets). Now you’re saying it overserves (provides more than people need). I don’t think many people are going to subject their iPads to the stress that eager YouTubers do.
      The iPad Pro isn’t aimed at everyone. If you’re looking to do some offline viewing, the cheapest iPad does that perfectly well at a price that lots of people seem happy with (judging by the ASP).

      And on a previous comment: why don’t I count Android tablets used as dumb terminals as “use”? Because (1) you’d have to include iPads used in that way too, and there are a lot used for that in stores (including department stores and others; Clarks shoe stores in the UK use an iPad-based system to measure childrens’ feed) (2) LOB [line of business] stuff where you could use anything that fulfils the function isn’t a computing platform in its own right; it’s interchangeable and tends to aim at the lowest price rather than the highest functionality.

      • Indeed, HW and SW lock-in are both a thing. With Apple you get both, actually three (Hardware, OS and App), with gDocs you get only the App lock-in, gDocs run on pretty much any hardware and any OS, they don’t require Chrome-the-OS, they don’t even require Chrome-the-browser.
        And you can even edit those directly from another app if you “save them as” a format that app understand (.doc and .docx are supported, I’m sure with niggles and restrictions ) though it’s an import/export thing, not live editing. You can even edit them directly in javascript https://www.google.com/search?q=edit+a+google+sheet+in+javascript

        I don’t need to decide if the iPad overserves or underserves; actually I can’t. Depends on the user/use case, and even for a given, specific user there are bound to be limitations and compromises. A device will, typically, both overserve and underserve at the same time any specific user, let alone a varied population of users. In the case of iPads, I think for example that the CPUs mostly overserve, and the storage and I/O (both physical and protocols) mostly underserve.

        I’m confused about the whole confusion about “line-of-business” and “dumb terminal”, and why those use cases don’t qualify. Nevermind.

  3. re: where are the Android tablet users.

    1- they’re in the sales figure, 66% for Android to the iPad’s 22% IIRC. And, again, in your own comments.

    2- I’m unclear what you want to count as users, you seem to be moving the goalposts around a lot. You now say corp users don’t count because “they didn’t choose it”, which is a stretch:
    + that 10-employees Thai restaurant is a family business, I’m fairly sure the owner works there and chose what he’d work with, or his sons. Not sure how that doesn’t count as “choosing for onself”
    + not sure how a big anonymous corp choosing what it thinks is best for itself and its employees shouldn’t count either. I don’t see you removing corp sales from iPad figures, and I don’t see how that doesn’t mean Android tablets are good for doing whatever they do with them. One thing for sure: device cost is negligible in those use cases, so it’s not HW cost that’s driving to Android.

    In the end it seems you just want to disqualify anyone who
    a) isn’t in your specific situation or something similar (white collar professional)
    b) hasn’t made the same choice as you.

    We can probably work out segments (kids, home, creative, blue-collar corp, white-collar corp, IT). They’re of varying sizes and requirements, but one isn’t more legit than the others because it’s yours. BTW, did you read the meta commentary about how east-coast storms get reported on a lot more than west-coast fires ? ;-p French for that is “nombrilisme”.

  4. re. being a writer.

    I don’t think it’s as easy as organizing my thoughts and putting that down, because Trump. Let me clarify before things get out of hand. I think I can think reasonnably clearly, but I think it’s irrelevant because
    a) what matters to me doesn’t matter to others. I chuckle when I read paeans to Apple’s magic, gestalt, design ethos. Yet most people lap it up. Should I ignore it, fake it, counter it ?
    b) the way I present that matters more than what I present, and I’ve got a very pedestrian writing style. I’m not sure I can write anything of some complexity/length without nested bullet lists.
    c) I hate the “charismatic writing style” were things are asserted but not proven. That’s for op-eds, not for regular articles, and that’s mostly for luminaries, not for unknowns. And for soft subjects, not for hard subjects. I think that most arguments and disagreements evaporate when the facts are staightened out. Nobody is interested in that these days, my lamest factual corrections on a pro-Apple site attract trolling of epic proportions and bad faith. On this very site, see the reaction to “Android tablets outsell iPads 3:1 so I don’t think iPads own the tablet market” and “Androids can be used for much more than video”. I think we’re still caught up in it.

    I’m doing my anti-Apple catharsis here your comments (sorry !). If I go pro-active, it needs to be forward- and outside- looking, not cathartic. I don’t have the skills to do that well, or at all. I dropped music because hearing myself hurt my hears, I avoid writing because I can’t be Andrew Cunningham ;-p

    • “I hate the “charismatic writing style” were things are asserted but not proven. That’s for op-eds, not for regular articles, and that’s mostly for luminaries, not for unknowns.”

      This is why I like to source data, and not go on spec lists which say “device A has ports which can do X, Y and Z” to assert things. Once again – and this is the last time I’m going to say it because I am So. Very. Bored. Saying. It – I’d like to see any hard data about Android tablets being used for full-time professional use (ie not single LOB applications, but normal professionals who have a range of needs). I have asked for it in multiple places and got nothing. I’ve provided data. I’ve asked people who work in the field. You quoting yourself and someone who’s mostly uninterested is not evidence that there are lots of people using Android tablets for general professional work. Yet I can cite a growing number of people who are doing that with the iPad Pro (noticed another today: a teacher at my child’s school, where GApps is principally used).

      • And that’s why I read your blog: I like it; my “charismatic” comment wasn’t directed at you. I do find your blog skewed Apple though, both quantitatively and qualitatively. What surprises me most is not so much that you like Apple, but how strongly you push back against non-Apple stuff. Again, your starting point was “Androids are only good for playing vids” and “iPads dominate the tablet market”. I think at least our discussion has clarified that… not quite. I’d say iPads are the best for making vids, and iPads dominate the white-collar/creative segment.

        If you want to limit analysis to free-form white collar/creation use, I’m fairly sure iPads dominate indeed. I’m just not sure why that’s a more legit use than LOB, home, limited-scope Office/planning, … uses. I understand it’s your use case and that of your peer group, but I’m not sure it’s the most common use case. And sales figures support my doubts.

        This was supposed to be the thread about “writing is *HARD*” ;-p

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