Start Up No.1,034: the genes that null pain, EU bans single-use plastics, Huawei’s longrunning security failures, filter bubble or decision bubble?, and more

Credit cards: the next thing to get disrupted by Apple after smartphones and tablets? CC-licensed photo by Thomas Kohler 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 13 links for you. Meaningful? Vote! I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

How Apple Card works • TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino, with some interesting detail:


Perhaps the biggest security feature of the offering is that Apple Card can generate virtual card numbers for online non-Apple Pay purchases. Though Apple said that the app would display your card info during the event, they weren’t specific on what that info would be so I got some more detail here.

• The physical Apple Card, of course, has no number. The app displays the last 4 digits of the card number that is on the mag stripe of the card only, you never see the full card number.
• Instead, Apple provides a virtual card number and virtual confirmation code (CVV) for the card in the app. You can use this for non-Apple Pay purchases online or over the phone. This number is semi-permanent, meaning that you can keep using it as long as you want.
• But you can hit a button to regenerate the PAN (primary account number), providing you with a new credit card number at any time. This is great for situations where you are forced to tell someone your credit card number but do not necessarily completely trust the recipient.
• Card numbers are manually regenerated only, and do not automatically rotate. There is, currently, no single-use number support or single-merchant number support.
• Each purchase requires a confirmation code, a fantastic additional security feature outlined by Zack Whittaker earlier in the week. This makes it even harder for someone to use your card, even if skimmed or copied, to make online purchases.


Credit cards are so prone to being copied and stolen. We’ve had widespread use of smartphones for nearly a decade. It’s about time this got changed.
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This woman doesn’t feel pain; two tiny mutations may be why • Live Science

Yasemin Saplakoglu:


Doctors first realized that there was something different about the woman when she had hand surgery and reported feeling no pain before or after the procedure. She later told doctors that a year earlier, she was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in her hip and scans showed she had severely degenerated joints — yet she felt no pain.

The revelations prompted a group of researchers at the University College London and the University of Oxford to carry out genetic tests to see what could be driving her pain insensitivity.

The team found two specific mutations in her genes.

One mutation was a tiny deletion in a not-well-documented “pseudogene” — a segment of DNA that is thought of as a nonfunctional copy of a parent gene — called FAAH-OUT. The second was a mutation in the original gene, called FAAH.

After being duplicated from the FAAH gene, the FAAH-OUT pseudogene accumulated a number of mutations that prevent it from coding for a protein like the FAAH gene does, said co-senior report author James Cox, a senior lecturer in pain genetics at University College London. As a result of these mutations, FAAH-OUT “has probably evolved a whole new function,” though it’s unclear what that function is.

(These FAAH-OUT mutations aren’t unique to the woman in Scotland, however. What is unique in her case is the tiny portion that’s deleted from the pseudogene.)


Geneticists love daft names for genes. But this protein discovery is amazing: is it a way towards an incredible painkiller? How much would it be worth?
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Mueller report exceeds 300 pages, raising questions about four-page summary • The New York Times

Nicholas Fandos, Adam Goldman and Katie Benner:


The still-secret report on Russian interference in the 2016 election submitted last week by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was more than 300 pages long, the Justice Department acknowledged on Thursday.

Mr. Barr wrote to Congress on Sunday offering what he called the “principal conclusions” of the report — including that Mr. Mueller had not found that the Trump campaign had taken part in a conspiracy to undermine the election. But he had notably declined to publicly disclose its length.

The total of 300-plus pages suggests that Mr. Mueller went well beyond the kind of bare-bones summary required by the Justice Department regulation governing his appointment and detailed his conclusions at length. And it raises questions about what Mr. Barr might have left out of the four dense pages he sent to Congress.

Answering those questions is likely to prove difficult for lawmakers and the public. Mr. Barr has indicated to two congressional chairmen that it will most likely take weeks to redact the report for classified and grand jury information the department deems unfit for public consumption.


I really don’t understand why it hasn’t been published already. The Starr Report was delivered to Congress on September 9, 1998, and published online on September 13. I remember downloading it, just because we could.
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EU bans single-use plastics in restaurants from 2021 • Bloomberg



The European Union decided to ban plastic consumer items including plates, cutlery and straws as of 2021 to help clean up oceans.

The prohibition on single-use plastics approved by the European Parliament on Wednesday in Strasbourg, France, also applies to beverage cups, food containers and cotton bud sticks. EU governments have already signaled support for the ban, making their final approval due on April 15 a formality.

With plastics accounting for around 80% of marine litter, the EU rushed through deliberations on the planned restrictions in less than a year. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, proposed the curbs in May 2018 and representatives of EU governments and the 751-seat Parliament reached a negotiated deal in December.

“Plastics poison our seas,” said Frederique Ries, a Belgian member who steered the draft law through the 28-nation assembly. “If we do not take action, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans.”


Can’t wait for all the Bufton Tuftons to declare that this is the EU interfering too much and that the UK needs to be able to have single-use plastics killing off the fish that we now own the right to net.
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The FCC has fined robocallers $208m. It has collected $6,790 • WSJ

Sarah Krouse:


Since 2015, the Federal Communications Commission has ordered violators of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, a law governing telemarketing and robodialing, to pay $208.4m. That sum includes so-called forfeiture orders in cases involving robocalling, Do Not Call Registry and telephone solicitation violations.

So far, the government has collected $6,790 of that amount, according to records obtained by The Wall Street Journal through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The total amount of money secured by the Federal Trade Commission through court judgments in cases involving civil penalties for robocalls or National Do Not Call Registry-related violations, plus the sum requested for consumer redress in fraud-related cases, is $1.5bn since 2004. It has collected $121m of that total, said Ian Barlow, coordinator of the agency’s Do Not Call program, or about 8%. The agency operates the National Do Not Call Registry and regulates telemarketing.

“That number stands on its own. We’re proud of it; we think our enforcement program is pretty strong,” Mr. Barlow said.


Total of 26.3bn (unwanted) robocalls made to US mobile phones in 2018. That number stands on its own too.
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The filter bubble is actually a decision bubble • Baekdal Plus

Thomas Baekdal:


we don’t have a filter bubble, at least not for the younger generation. It’s a myth that is very easily debunked. What we do have, however, is a decision bubble. Something we see all the time is that there are many people who end up believing something that simply isn’t true, and it is quite painful to watch.

Let me give you a simple example. Take the flat-Earthers. I mean… they are clearly bonkers in their belief that the world is flat, and when you look at this you might think that this is because they are living in a filter bubble.

But it isn’t. You see, the problem with the flat-Earthers isn’t that they have never heard that the Earth is round. They are fully aware that this is what the rest of us believe in. They have seen all our articles and they have been presented with all the proof.

In fact, when you look at how flat-Earthers interact online, you will notice that they are often commenting or attacking scientists any time they post a video or an article about space.

So flat-Earthers do not live in a filter bubble. They are very aware that the rest of us know the Earth is actually round, because they spend every single day attacking us for it.

It’s the same with all the other examples where we think people are living in a filter bubble. Take the anti-vaccination lunatics. They too are fully aware that society as a whole, not to mention medical professionals, all recommend that you get vaccinated. And, they also know that the rest of us think about them as idiots.

They are not living in a filter bubble, but something has happened that has caused them to choose not to believe what is general knowledge.


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Damning Huawei security report: the top 10 key takeaways • Computer Business Review

Ed Targett:


These are Computer Business Review’s Top 10 takeaways from the Huawei security report [pdf].

1: Huawei’s build processes are dangerously poor
Huawei’s underlying build process provides “no end-to-end integrity, no good configuration management, no lifecycle management of software components across versions, use of deprecated and out of support tool chains (some of which are non-deterministic) and poor hygiene in the build environments” HCSEC said.

2: Security officials don’t blame Beijing
The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) which oversees HCSEC, said it “does not believe that the defects identified are a result of Chinese state interference.”

3: Pledges of a $2bn overhaul mean nothing, yet…
Huawei promises to transform its software engineering process through the investment of $2bn over five years are “currently no more than a proposed initial budget for as yet unspecified activities.” Until there is “evidence of its impact on products being used in UK networks” HCSEC has no confidence it will drive change.

4: The vulnerabilities are bad…
Vulnerabilities identified in Huawei equipment include unprotected stack overflows in publicly accessible protocols, protocol robustness errors leading to denial of service, logic errors, cryptographic weaknesses, default credentials and many other basic vulnerability types, HCSEC reported.


Also there: old issues aren’t fixed, managing the risk will grow, UK operators may have to replace hardware because of the “significant risk”, it’s using outdated OSs, and the lack of progress is becoming critical. You wonder if this is new? Read on.
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Huawei bungled router security, leaving kit open to botnets, despite alert from ISP years prior • The Register

Gareth Corfield:


Huawei bungled its response to warnings from an ISP’s code review team about a security vulnerability common across its home routers – patching only a subset of the devices rather than all of its products that used the flawed firmware.

Years later, those unpatched Huawei gateways, still vulnerable and still in use by broadband subscribers around the world, were caught up in a Mirai-variant botnet that exploited the very same hole flagged up earlier by the ISP’s review team.

The Register has seen the ISP’s vulnerability assessment given to Huawei in 2013 that explained how a programming blunder in the firmware of its HG523a and HG533 broadband gateways could be exploited by hackers to hijack the devices, and recommended the remote-command execution hole be closed.

Our sources have requested anonymity.

After receiving the security assessment, which was commissioned by a well-known ISP, Huawei told the broadband provider it had fixed the vulnerability, and had rolled out a patch to HG523a and HG533 devices in 2014, our sources said. However, other Huawei gateways in the HG series, used by other internet providers, suffered from the same flaw because they used the same internal software, and remained vulnerable and at risk of attack for years because Huawei did not patch them.

One source described the bug as a “trivially exploitable remote code execution issue in the router.”


And exploited it was. Repeatedly. But Huawei would only patch as it was told about exploits, model by model, despite them all using the same firmware.
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YouTube’s child viewers may struggle to recognise adverts in videos from ‘virtual play dates’ • The Conversation

Rebecca Mardon:


Ryan’s channel has become a lucrative business, complete with 25 employees, including video editors, writers and production assistants. It achieved initial commercial success by allowing more traditional “pre-roll” adverts to appear before its videos, which mostly saw Ryan playing with toys – which his parents say they buy. The channel later began to embed advertising content for major brands, such as Walmart, within Ryan’s own videos. More recently, the business launched a range of Ryan’s World toys that often feature in his video content.

Ryan’s videos do include what seem like clear, child-friendly disclosures surrounding sponsored content. But the question is whether children actually recognise these disclosures and understand what advertising is, and whether all YouTube videos aimed at children adequately disclose marketing messages.

Research shows that children have lower advertising literacy than adult viewers. They struggle to recognise adverts when they are embedded in organic content, and may not recognise YouTube videos featuring paid advertising content, vloggers’ own-brand merchandise, or free products “gifted” by brands as marketing.

Children are particularly likely to struggle to identify advertising messages by their favourite vloggers. Viewers often come to feel personal attachments to YouTube stars. Fans of beauty vlogger Zoella, for instance, see her as a sister or best friend, and my own research has found that fans often defend and excuse vlogger actions that might otherwise be seen as problematic or unethical as a result of this relationship.


By the way, Ryan is aged seven and reckoned to have earned $22m between June 2017 and June 2018.
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What Facebook is getting wrong in the fight against fake news • VICE

David Uberti:


From her home in San Diego, [Brooke] Binkowski sees the stakes of the info war in nearby Tijuana, where the asylum seekers known as “The Caravan” remain in limbo after a journey across Central America that received a lot of publicity riddled with misinformation. The real-world implications don’t end there: Parents of Sandy Hook victims are pursuing a defamation suit against Infowars huckster Alex Jones—a case on which Binkowski is consulting as an expert witness—for claiming the school shooting was a hoax. “I love talking shit to people who lie on the internet,” she said. “I’m pretty much born for this.”

I caught up with Binkowski by phone to talk Facebook, fact-checking, and how fake news has changed since she joined Snopes in late 2015.

VICE: Did you have any sense of how big the problem was on Facebook or to what extent they were taking it seriously?
Brooke Binkowski: They didn’t share shit with us. I felt that we were crisis PR: They could point to us and say, Look, we’re doing something about it. We hired Snopes. They also [included] The Weekly Standard and [considered including] The Daily Caller in their fact-checking teams, because they didn’t want to be perceived as left-wing fact-checker friendly. I was like, You guys don’t know how this fucking works, do you? You should not be doing this. You need to hire people internally.

V: They’re reacting to conservative criticism the exact same way a legacy media company might react.
BB: Their reaction has been very telling. That’s another reason I’ve gone on this offensive. I’m broke as shit—always. I don’t have a lot of personal power. But what I really have right now is a megaphone. I have a voice. And they’re very sensitive to public opinion. So I’m just going to keep kicking them in the teeth publicly as long as I can, because they’re fucking up.

V: So you think the power lies with them?
BB: One hundred percent. For them, they’ve been in denial about being a media company, not just for legal reasons, but also because they can tell themselves media may be prone to being swayed one way or the other. Tech is morally neutral—it’s all in the way people use it. That’s obviously not true. It never was.


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UK opens up access to oil and gas data • Out-law


Terabytes of data on the UK’s oil and gas fields and infrastructure has been made freely available for use by industry.

The Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) said the release of the data can help industry recover the 20 billion barrels of oil and gas that are estimated to remain untapped in the UK’s Continental Shelf (UKCS).
The data is accessible via a new national data repository (NDR) established by the OGA, and includes “130 terabytes of well, geophysical, field and infrastructure data … covering more than 12,500 wellbores, 5,000 seismic surveys, and 3,000 pipelines”.

Bob Ruddiman, specialist in oil and gas at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind, said: “This is a significant development in the evolution of the UKCS. The future prospectivity of the basin will be significantly enhanced by the free availability of data. Innovators will look differently at the many opportunities which undoubtedly exist and the future will undoubtedly include developments previously overlooked or discarded but which will be enhanced by application of new technology to existing data.”


Er, well, open data, so that’s good. But it would be better to leave these reserves buried.
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How the UK lost the Brexit battle • POLITICO

Tom McTague:


Had [Downing Street] been prepared for Brexit on June 24, 2016, the negotiations might have played out differently.

“The British government should have offered something very, very quickly,” said one high-ranking official of a large EU country. “If the UK had said: ‘Here’s the plan,’ we might have accepted it.”

“The British strength was being one member state, being able to define its national interest quickly and making its move quickly,” the official said. “It did not do that.”

Instead, in the aftermath of the referendum, Cameron resigned as prime minister; Labour MPs attempted to oust their party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn; Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish first minister, vowed to hold a second independence referendum; and Martin McGuinness, then deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, called for a vote on whether the British territory should leave the UK and become part of the Republic of Ireland.

The seeds of the crisis Britain faced today were planted by Cameron, said Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan. “He called the referendum too early, ran a crappy campaign and then walked out, leaving a vacuum.”

“It is a crisis caused by bad decisions on top of bad decisions, turning a short-term gambit into a long-term catastrophe,” he added. “You can trace the whole thing back to the start. The crash was always coming.”

…One adviser on European affairs to a prominent EU27 leader said Dublin had begun lobbying other EU countries in the months before the referendum to ensure Ireland was protected in the event of decision by the UK to leave…

Northern Irish peer Paul Bew, one of the chief architects of the Good Friday Agreement, said Dublin’s preparation was typical of the Irish in their long history of negotiations with Britain. “They are on top of the detail, and we [the British] are incurious. The people at the top of the UK government are also paralyzed by imperial guilt.”

The contrast with London was stark. While Cameron refused to allow officials to prepare for a Leave vote — barring officials from putting anything on paper — Ireland had produced a 130-page Contingency Plan with an hour-by-hour checklist.


Excellent in-depth piece which shows how many times the UK got this wrong – ie pretty much at every turn. So much for the EU being a sclerotic organisation that can’t tie its shoelaces.
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Sony to close smartphone plant in China, shift production to Thailand • Reuters

Pei Li and Miakiko Yamazaki:


Sony Corp will close its smartphone plant in Beijing in the next few days, a company spokesman said, as the Japanese electronics giant aims to cut costs in the loss-making business.

Sony will shift production to its plant in Thailand in a bid to halve costs and turn the smartphone business profitable in the year from April 2020, the spokesman said on Thursday. He said the decision was not related to Sino-U.S. trade frictions.

Sony’s smartphone business is one of its few weak spots and is bracing for a loss of 95 billion yen ($863m) for the financial year ending this month.

Some analysts say Sony should sell the business amid acute price competition with Asian rivals. The company has a global market share of less than 1%, shipping just 6.5 million units this financial year mainly for Japan and Europe.

But Sony has said it has no intention to sell as it expects smartphones to be central to technologies for fifth-generation wireless networks, where cars and various devices would be connected.


What is the magical thinking that leads Sony execs to think that 5G will make its smartphone business profitable? Competition then will come from more places than ever, and Sony isn’t in the 5G space to any appreciable extent. I suspect it comes from people whose jobs are at risk if they confess the division is never going to break even again. Which is, let’s be fair, understandable.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1,033: what pilots can tell drivers, what’s Medium for?, Sony hits 4.2m VR headsets, Apple’s kyboad poblm psists, buses v oil, and more

Online dating: it’s the way people hook up now. CC-licensed photo by %u2593%u2592%u2591 TORLEY %u2591%u2592%u2593 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. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The rise of online dating, and the company that dominates the market • Visual Capitalist

Frank Cardona:


Tinder globally popularized app-based matchmaking when it launched on iPhones in 2012, and later on Android in 2013. Unlike traditional dating websites, which required lengthy profiles and complicated profile searches, Tinder gamified online dating with quick account setups and its “swipe-right-to-like” approach. By 2017, Tinder had grown to 57 million active users across the globe and billions of swipes per day.

Since the launch of Tinder, hundreds of dating services have appeared on app stores worldwide. Investors are taking notice of this booming market, while analysts estimate the global online dating market could be worth $12bn by next year…

Today, nearly all major dating apps are owned by the Match Group, a publicly-traded pure play that was spun out of IAC, a conglomerate controlled by media mogul Barry Diller.

IAC saw the online dating trend early, purchasing early online dating pioneer way back in 1999. However, with online dating shifting into the mainstream over recent years, the strategy quickly shifted to aggressively buying up major players in the market.

In addition to its prized app Tinder – which doubled its revenue in 2018 to $805m – Match Group owns popular online dating services like OkCupid, Plenty of Fish, Hinge, and has even bought out international competitors like Meetic in Europe, and Eureka in Japan. The dating giant reported revenues of $1.73bn in 2018. According to reports, Match Group now owns more than 45 dating-related businesses, including 25 acquisitions.


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The long, complicated, and extremely frustrating history of Medium, 2012–present • Nieman Journalism Lab

Laura Hazard Owen:


I don’t blame people who go do something for Medium. Seriously, grab that money while it’s there. In 2015, after I was laid off, I talked to people at Medium about starting a parenting publication there. It was something that I might have received a few thousand dollars to do. I joined Nieman Lab instead, but that freedom (?) and potential money still float in and out of my mind. Some of the news stories I’ve written about Medium have been too credulous; I’ve taken too much of Williams’ startup speak at face value. I (and many others) devoted what now seems like way too much mental energy to the “Is Medium a platform or a publisher?” question. Sure, Williams’ frequently shifting stated vision didn’t help, but that angst still feels ridiculously quaint in 2019.

Why spend so much time worrying about what Medium is? Maybe because we wanted to know whether it was a friend or an enemy. The answer is that it’s neither. It’s a reflection of what the media industry has worried about, and hoped for, and not received. But Medium was never something that we would get to define. Instead, it’s turned out to be an endless thought experiment into what publishing on the internet could look like. That’s not much fun for people who got burned along the way, but Medium was never exactly ours to begin with.


Medium really is a puzzle. What’s its model now? What will its model be in a year? Without enough certainty, it’s impossible to know whether to write for it or not. But its sugar daddy means that it never has to think too hard about that.
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Sony has sold 4.2 million PlayStation VR headsets • Venturebeat

Jeff Grubb:


That sold-through designation [on the 4.2m number] is important because it’s not just “shipped.” Instead, 4.2 million people have actually purchased the device.

This means that PSVR likely still has a lead in the premium VR headset market. But Facebook and HTC don’t share exact sales numbers for their devices. Even without that data, however, industry intelligence firm IDC estimates that PSVR shipped 463,000 headsets in the fourth quarter of 2018. That put it ahead of 300,000 Oculus Rifts and 230,000 HTC Vives.

Sony has continued to use its advantages in the gaming space to pitch the PSVR to customers. Unlike Vive or Rift, you only need a PlayStation 4 instead of an expensive gaming PC. PlayStation is also a globally recognized gaming brand with numerous developer partnerships. The publisher has leveraged those relationships to bring big-name VR experiences to the PSVR first. That includes hits like Tetris Effect and Resident Evil 7. And that’s on top of its first-party efforts like Farpoint and Astro Bot: Rescue Mission.


Personally I’ve gone from being highly optimistic about VR to pessimistic – again. 4.2m is a good figure, but it’s entirely self-contained to games.
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Appl still hasn’t fixd its MacBook kyboad problm • WSJ

Joanna Stern (with Elliot Bentley):


Nop, I havn’t fogottn how to wit. No did my dito go on vacation.

You s, to sha th pain of using an Appl laptop kyboad that’s faild aft fou months, I could only think of on ida: tak all th bokn ltts out of my column. Thn I alizd that would mak th whol thing unadabl. So to…

Why is th baking of my MacBook Ai kyboad so insanly maddning? Lt’s tak a tip down Mmoy Lan…

Apil 2015: Appl Inc. lass th all-nw MacBook with a “buttfly” kyboad. In od to achiv xtm thinnss, th kys a much flatt than old gnations but th buttfly mchanism undnath, fo which th kyboad is namd, aims to plicat th bounc of a mo taditional kyboad.

Octob 2016: Th MacBook Po aivs with a scond-gnation buttfly kyboad. A fw months lat, som bgin to pot that ltts o chaacts don’t appa, that kys gt stuck o that ltts unxpctdly pat.

That’s why I’d lik to off you th oppotunity to…


Eugh. I wonder if Apple will finally, finally, finally listen to this. When you get stories like this in international papers from well-respected writers, it destroys your reputation. This has gone on for years now and it still isn’t fixed. I’ve never known Apple to be so indifferent to a serious problem that has gone on for so long across an entire product line.
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The Boeing 737 Max crash is a warning to drivers, too • Slate

Henry Grabar:


automation has not made pilots’ jobs easier, says Steve Casner, a pilot and research psychologist at NASA’s Ames Research Center: “You’d think it would dumb down the role of the pilot. Contrary to expectation, you have to know more than ever.”

Casner is one of a number of pilots and analysts who see a parallel between the introduction of automation in airplanes more than 30 years ago and its arrival in cars today, as drivers prepare to relinquish the burdens of navigating the blacktop.

“It’s like 1983 all over again,” Casner told me Monday. Where airlines by and large got it right, he thinks car-makers may be overeager in sticking humans in the car with unfamiliar technologies. “I’m very concerned that even though aviation has shown us how to do it, we’re about to make a big mistake with cars. Sitting there waiting like a potted plant for the lights to blink is not one of our fortes.”

Together with the cognitive psychologist Edwin Hutchins, Casner is the author of a new paper, “What Do We Tell the Drivers? Towards Minimum Driver Training Standards for Partially Automated Cars.” One of their main points is that automation would not have made commercial flight as safe as it is today without pilots who understood how the systems worked.


We’re already seeing crashes where the human driver doesn’t realise that the system isn’t functioning correctly. Disengaging it might get harder.
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Boeing 737 MAX software fix: easy to upload, harder to approve • Reuters

Eric Johnson, David Shepardson and Allison Lampert:


Boeing engineers armed with laptops and thumb drives will be able to upload a crucial software fix for the 737 MAX anti-stall system in about an hour. That’s the easy part.

Before Boeing’s workhorse of the future can resume flying, the upgrade must first be approved by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and then by wary regulators around the globe who have grounded it in the wake of two deadly crashes.

Regulators in China, Europe and Canada have signaled they will not rubber stamp an FAA decision to allow the planes back into the air but conduct their own reviews.

With the FAA under pressure for its role in certifying the newest 737, and other regulators challenging its leadership of the airline safety system, Boeing’s money-spinning jet could remain parked for months.

“We are guessing this thing’s not going to be put to bed until the July or August time frame,” said Charlie Smith, chief investment officer at Fort Smith Capital Group, which holds shares in Boeing.

The world’s largest planemaker has been working on the upgrade for its MCAS stall-prevention system since October’s Lion Air crash, when pilots are believed to have lost a tug of war with software that repeatedly pushed the nose down.


The FAA now has the same problem as Boeing: persuading people that its decisions are safe. Just a part of Trump’s legacy (the FAA director position hasn’t been formally filled).
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Standing against hate • Facebook Newsroom


over the past three months our conversations with members of civil society and academics who are experts in race relations around the world have confirmed that white nationalism and separatism cannot be meaningfully separated from white supremacy and organized hate groups. Our own review of hate figures and organizations – as defined by our Dangerous Individuals & Organizations policy – further revealed the overlap between white nationalism and separatism and white supremacy. Going forward, while people will still be able to demonstrate pride in their ethnic heritage, we will not tolerate praise or support for white nationalism and separatism.

We also need to get better and faster at finding and removing hate from our platforms. Over the past few years we have improved our ability to use machine learning and artificial intelligence to find material from terrorist groups. Last fall, we started using similar tools to extend our efforts to a range of hate groups globally, including white supremacists. We’re making progress, but we know we have a lot more work to do.

Our efforts to combat hate don’t stop here. As part of today’s announcement, we’ll also start connecting people who search for terms associated with white supremacy to resources focused on helping people leave behind hate groups.


No name attached to it. But anyway, about time. A lot of people have been telling Facebook about this literally for years.
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Magic Leap heads to AT+T stores, along with AR Game of Thrones experience • CNet

Scott Stein:


AT+T was originally supposed to be a retail partner for Magic Leap at launch last fall, but that never ended up happening. This retail launch of the $2,295 AR headset will be pretty limited: It will arrive April 1 in Boston at one store (Boylston), April 3 in Chicago (on Michigan Avenue) and April 6 in San Francisco (at 1 Powell).

The hardware will be exactly the same as what’s already been available previously. The self-contained AR hardware runs off an Nvidia Tegra X2 processor and creates 3D effects meshed into reality through its tethered goggles. But it doesn’t have cellular onboard yet. Instead, it requires Wi-Fi.

AT+T is planning to make a move to 5G and bring Magic Leap along, but for now those developments will be limited to deploying 5G at Magic Leap’s Florida headquarters later this year for 5G AR testing.

As for these retail Magic Leap Game of Thrones experiences, it could be worth a drop-in. The “Dead Must Die” encounter, according to AT+T’s press release: “…challenges the bravest of fans to confront a White Walker and lead the fight for the living. Curious visitors will be fitted with a Magic Leap One and step into a physical representation of King’s Landing, which instantly transforms into an ominous, icy scene that begs investigation…


Nope. I just don’t see this making it. I think Magic Leap’s investors can kiss their money goodbye.
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More stunning falls in solar and battery storage costs put fossil fuels on notice • RenewEconomy

Giles Parkinson:


More speculator falls in the costs of solar PV and battery storage technologies is ensuring that renewables are not only vastly cheaper than coal and gas power plants on generation costs, but also competitive with fossil fuel generation when it comes to dispatchable generation.

The latest technology cost analysis released by research company BloombergNEF shows that battery storage costs have fallen by more than one third since the first half of 2018, and even wind and solar have also fallen by another 10-18% respectively over that time. Offshore wind is down 24% over the last year.

The big mover, and the most significant for the unfolding low carbon energy transition has been the cost of lithium-ion battery storage, which BNEF says has fallen by 35% to $US187/MWh. That means it is competing with, and in some cases, easily beating gas generation for tenders for peaking plants, including in the US where gas is supposed to be cheaper than elsewhere.


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Forget Tesla, it’s China’s E-buses that are denting oil demand • Bloomberg NEF

Alaric Nightingale:


The oil industry needn’t be too concerned, for now, about how Tesla’s electric cars are denting demand. China and its bus fleet could be more of a worry.

By the end of this year, a cumulative 270,000 barrels a day of diesel demand will have been displaced by electric buses, most of it in China, according to a report published last week by BloombergNEF. That’s more than three times the displacement by all the world’s passenger electric vehicles (a market where Tesla has a share of about 12%.).

Despite rapid growth, the impact on the oil market from electric vehicles remains relatively small. Collectively, buses and electric vehicles account for about 3% of oil demand growth since 2011, and 0.3% of current global consumption, according to BloombergNEF figures and data from the International Energy Agency.

Buses matter more because of their size and constant use. For every 1,000 electric buses on the road, 500 barrels of diesel are displaced each day, BloombergNEF estimates. By comparison, 1,000 battery electric vehicles remove just 15 barrels of oil demand.


So there’s an obvious policy open goal for politicians to aim at: replace every diesel bus. (In passing, I think “NEF” in this Bloomberg tag stands for “New Energy Futures”, but can’t be certain. Might be “Fundamentals”.)
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1,032: Qualcomm dings Apple, Brexit grinds on, can Nasa see women?, Article 13 passes, and more

Why is the BBC preventing Google from indexing its podcasts? CC-licensed photo by 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. Very indicative. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Get set for Brexit: Indicative Day – the one where the Grand Wizards turn on each other • The Guardian

Marina Hyde is the Guardian’s best purveyor of side-eye in written form, and Brexit has given her tons of material. Now Parliament is about to try to decide – in a secret, prisoner’s dilemma-style vote – what sort of Brexit it might like:


By way of a reminder, Theresa May’s major intervention in the 2015 general election campaign – she was home secretary at the time – was to warn that a Labour government propped up by the SNP could be “the greatest constitutional crisis since the abdication”. Yes, well. Hold my sherry and all that. In fact, as many contemporary accounts show, almost everyone normal hugely enjoyed the abdication soap opera back in 1936, as is possible with the type of national drama that doesn’t end in the silence of 10 million lambs and economic holy war on the poor.

For some [Tory splinter group] ERG crusaders, though, Monday’s vote all too belatedly appeared to put things in perspective. This morning, [ERG sort-of leader] Jacob Rees-Mogg was suggesting he would now vote for May’s deal, which has infuriated many of those who have formed a personality cult around the personality of Jacob Rees-Mogg (surely the last people who should be risking medicine shortages).

Naturally, some are still fighting the mad idea that voting for Brexit might be the best way to get Brexit. Take the ERG vice-chair, Mark Francois, a sort of inflatable idiot who has spent the past few months bobbing around the broadcast studios like some remnant of the worst ever stag weekend. Can someone please deflate it? Otherwise we will continue to have situations like the one this morning, when Mark explained to Talkradio: “Europe is free because of us.” I mean … I don’t mean to come across as tolerably informed, but Mr Francois’ recent historical interjections have been of such staggering imbecility that they suggest not simply that he has failed to understand the contributions of the Soviet Union and the United States to the second world war – that is a given – but that the very existence of those powers would be news to him.


We get the politicians we deserve, but happily we also get the columnists we deserve. Nobody deserves the ERG, though, which is to politics what food poisoning is to dinner parties.
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Article 13: EU approves controversial copyright law • CNet

Katie Collins:


Years in the making, the EU Copyright Directive has been heavily debated and divisive among politicians, as well as a cause of concern for the tech industry. One part of the proposal in particular – Article 13, which will govern the way copyrighted content is uploaded to the internet – has many in the tech community throwing their hands up in despair.

Under the law, internet platforms will be liable for content that users upload, a burden that will fall heavily on some of the most popular online services.

“YouTube, Facebook and Google News are some of the internet household names that will be most directly affected by this legislation,” the European Parliament said in a statement.

The effects of the law may be felt well beyond Europe’s borders, given the global nature of the internet and the need for tech companies to come up with policies that can be broadly applied. That’s what happened after the EU enacted the privacy-focused General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, in May 2018.

Critics said legislators had turned a deaf ear to a wide range of experts and to the general population.

“In a stunning rejection of the will [of] five million online petitioners, and over 100,000 protestors this weekend, the European Parliament has abandoned common sense and the advice of academics, technologists, and UN human rights experts, and approved the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive in its entirety,” said rights group the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a blog post.

Before the text can be adopted in European law, it must next be approved by the Council of the European Union. It’s still possible that the directive may not be passed by the Council, but that would involve at least one key country changing its mind. A vote is expected to take place April 9.


A lot of this is about getting YouTube to actually pay artists for using their music, rather than giving them a cut of the advertising that goes around them. (It’s why Spotify needs premium users: ad-supported users are terrible for its economics.) I think the scare stories about memes are just that – scare stories, and won’t be vindicated.
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Teeny-tiny Bluetooth transmitter runs on less than 1 milliwatt • IEEE Spectrum

Samuel Moore:


Engineers at the University of Michigan have now built the first millimeter-scale stand-alone device that speaks BLE [Bluetooth Low Energy protocol]. Consuming just 0.6 milliwatts during transmission, it would broadcast for 11 years using a typical 5.8mm coin battery. Such a millimeter-scale BLE radio would allow these ant-sized sensors to communicate with ordinary equipment, even a smartphone.

The transmitter chip, which debuted last month at IEEE International Solid-State Circuits Conference, had to solve two problems, explains David Wentzloff, the Michigan associate professor who led the research. The first is power consumption, and the second is the size of the antenna. “The size of the antenna is typically physics-based, and you can’t cheat physics,” says Wentzloff. The group’s solution touched on both problems.

 An ordinary transmitter circuit requires a tunable RF oscillator to generate the frequency, a power amplifier to boost its amplitude, and an antenna to radiate the signal. The Michigan team combined the oscillator and the antenna in a way that made the amplifier unnecessary.


This is how the real internet of things gets started: devices you fit and pretty much forget.
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Apple violated Qualcomm patent, US trade judge rules • WSJ

Asa Fitch:


A US trade judge recommended that some iPhones be barred from import on Tuesday after finding that Apple violated a patent held by Qualcomm, handing the mobile-phone chip giant a victory in its long-running feud with its erstwhile business partner.

The decision from the US International Trade Commission judge means that Apple, which has its iPhones assembled overseas before sending them to the US and other markets, could be barred from selling iPhones that infringe on a Qualcomm patent covering strategies for conserving power and improving battery life. The judge’s two-page order didn’t specify which iPhone models it covered.

The decision by ITC administrative law judge MaryJoan McNamara, however, is subject to review by the full six-member ITC as well as by the Trump administration, either of which could change the findings and reverse the recommended ban. Presidents have vetoed ITC moves before, including in 2013 when the Obama administration prevented an ITC ban on the sale of some iPhones and iPads from taking effect after Samsung Electronics Co. won a case there.


Not so helpful to not specify the iPhones. But it won’t be the 2018 models, since Apple now uses Intel modems.
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The end of open: BBC blocks its podcasts on Google • Pod News

James Cridland (who as it happens is ex-BBC):


Talking to Podnews, a BBC spokesperson said that Google is required to sign a licence to link to their podcasts; and that the Distribution Policy also requires Google to supply user data to the BBC. There has been a “consultation with Google”, and the BBC “has no choice but to stop Google from making podcasts available via Google products.”

However, Ofcom, the UK media regulator, requires that “the BBC must offer the public services to third parties in response to reasonable requests for supply, except where the BBC has an objective justification for not doing so. In offering the public services for supply, and in supplying those services, the BBC must act on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis.” (¶3.3.2).

In recent months, the BBC have been removing some of its podcasts from third-party platforms, and placing them exclusively within their BBC Sounds app. BBC podcasts are supported by advertising outside the UK, though BBC Sounds remains unavailable to non-UK listeners.


I don’t think this is the BBC trying to shut down podcasts. The FAQ says it’s specifically about Google, and the licence seems to be aimed at commercial services. That certainly includes Google.

Certainly the BBC is getting a bit weird about its BBC Sounds app, but it wants listeners for its podcasts, so there must be quite a clash here. What’s really strange is that podcasts are just RSS elements. Indexing a feed isn’t “using” it.
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Nasa’s first all-female spacewalk scrapped over spacesuit sizes • BBC News


Plans for the first all-female spacewalk in history have been scrapped for lack of a second space suit, the US space agency Nasa says.

Christina Koch and Anne McClain had been scheduled to step outside the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday to install batteries.

But it turned out they both needed a medium-size spacesuit and only one was ready for use.
Koch will now exit the ISS with male colleague Nick Hague instead. She will wear the medium-size suit used by McClain on a spacewalk with Hague last week.

McClain trained in both medium- and large-size spacesuits but only realised after her actual spacewalk that the medium-size suit fitted her best, Nasa said.


A perfect example of what Caroline Criado-Perez was talking about: women are almost invisible in planning like this.
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Restaurant Megatrends 2019: Google’s domination of local discovery is almost complete • Skift

Jason Clampet:


In the late 1990s companies including Microsoft Sidewalk, AOL Digital Cities, and CitySearch duked it out digitally to be the place people discovered a new restaurant or bar online, while print outfits like Zagat, Time Out, and local newspapers did the same in print. There were multiple ways to find a place to go in print and online.

This isn’t really true anymore. Google, with its trifecta of Google Maps, Mobile search, and Desktop search fuels local discovery with a dominance that is daunting.

Sure, there are other ways to find a great taco: Apple Maps exists; Yelp is still important enough to worry restaurants; Foursquare hums along quietly; and reservation apps can point the way. Instagram has the power to inspire, but you can’t ask it where to get a burger near you.

Thanks to our reliance on smartphones and GPS, it’s become an indispensable tool for restaurants. At the same time, Google’s ad search business, allowing keywords to go to the highest bidder, change the way restaurants must market themselves.

The stats are daunting, whether they’re coming for Google itself or third parties. According to Think by Google, “people are at least twice as likely to use search than other online or offline sources … Not only is search the most used resource, it’s the resource 87% of people turn to first.”

Over the last year the frequency of the search term “restaurant near me” has grown by two to three times in markets around the world. In no place has this search grown less than 50%. Indeed, the growing popularity of “… near me” searches clearly illustrates the consumer shift to a reliance on digital for the most basic local discovery actions at an incredibly high frequency that will only continue to increase as long as search results satisfy.


Clampet argues that Google Maps is now a “mega app”, like Line in Japan or WeChat in China – absorbing other apps under its umbrella.
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The smoking gun: or, “whither Gareth?” • Post Office Trial blog

Nick Wallis has been covering a long-running series of trials about software that is suspected of leading to false accusations that people running little local post offices around the UK have been fiddling the books:


On a day of stunning drama at the High Court last week, we also had a series of startling admissions about bugs in the Post Office’s Horizon IT system.

Before the recusal hand-grenade was lobbed into proceedings, Torstein Godeseth, Horizon Chief Architect at Fujitsu, was being cross-examined by Patrick Green, QC for the claimants.

Mr Green’s cross-examination was the fruit of what looked like several months work by the claimants’ legal team. They had painstakingly put together a series of conclusions based on evidence disclosed, which they then put to Mr Godeseth. It delivered, to my mind, the first concrete evidence of a smoking gun – an error generated outside a branch blamed on a Subpostmaster – and it raised the question as to how many more have slipped through unnoticed.

The financial discrepancy was mistakenly generated in 2007 by a Fujitsu engineer who was trying to replace a missing line of code in a Subpostmaster’s terminal without the Subpostmaster’s knowledge or permission.

During a bungled attempt to fix the glitch, the engineer put in an incorrect manual entry, causing a $1000 discrepancy in a forex transaction. It wasn’t picked up by Fujitsu at the time, or rather the discrepancy was picked up, but the source of it wasn’t, so it was blamed on the Subpostmaster. The incorrect manual entry was only spotted during this litigation whilst the claimants’ legal team were preparing for the Horizon trial.


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Crypto mining giant Bitmain’s IPO application has officially expired • CoinDesk

Wolfie Zhao:


According to an update on the HKEX’s website, Bitmain’s case has been moved to a group of “inactive” applications and is now labeled as lapsed, six months after the company filed the prospectus on Sept 26.

If it still wishes to pursue a listing, Bitmain can re-file the application, but the company would be required to provide additional financial records beyond what was included in its initial filing.

According to a listing rule from the HKEX, “the latest financial period reported on by the reporting accountants for a new applicant must not have ended more than six months from the date of the listing documents.” However, the last public filing from Bitmain only covers the period ending June 30, 2018, nearly nine months ago.

The application drew wide attention last fall as Bitmain disclosed eye-popping profit growth over the past several years. For instance, just for the first half of 2018, the mining giant brought home a net profit of nearly $1bn, after having made over $1bn for all of 2017.

Despite such rapid growth in the bottom line, reflecting the surging cryptocurrency market of 2017, the HKEX was hesitant to approve applications from Bitmain and its mining rivals Canaan Creative and Ebang, due to the industry’s volatility.

Indeed, in line with the market slump of 2018, Bitmain suffered a loss of about $500m in the third quarter of last year.


Question is how much of that profit it has held on to if it needs to repay some – or all – of the $700m it’s down for. Bitcoin, meanwhile, is still under $4,000.
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Global energy and CO2 status report: the latest trends in energy and emissions in 2018 • IEA


Energy consumption worldwide grew by 2.3% in 2018, nearly twice the average rate of growth since 2010, driven by a robust global economy as well as higher heating and cooling needs in some parts of the world.

The biggest gains came from natural gas, which emerged as the fuel of choice last year, accounting for nearly 45% of the increase in total energy demand. Demand for all fuels rose, with fossil fuels meeting nearly 70% of the growth for the second year running. Renewables grew at double-digit pace, but still not fast enough to meet the increase in demand for electricity around the world.

As a result of higher energy consumption, global energy-related CO2 emissions increased to 33.1 Gt CO2, up 1.7%. Coal-fired power generation continues to be the single largest emitter, accounting for 30% of all energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Higher energy demand was propelled by a global economy that expanded by 3.7% in 2018, a higher pace than the average annual growth of 3.5% seen since 2010. China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand.

The United States had the largest increase in oil and gas demand worldwide. Gas consumption jumped 10% from the previous year, the fastest increase since the beginning of IEA records in 1971. The annual increase in US demand last year was equivalent to the United Kingdom’s current gas consumption.


Here’s a depressing stat: half of the human global emissions have come in the past 30 years. Within the lifetimes of most people reading this.
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Cargo ships are the world’s worst polluters, so how can they be made to go green? • The i

Mark Piesing, in January 2018:


Every day the clothes, tech and toys that fill the shelves in our shopping centres seem to arrive there by magic. In fact, about nine out of 10 items are shipped halfway around the world on board some of the biggest and dirtiest machines on the planet.

It has been estimated that just one of these container ships, the length of around six football pitches, can produce the same amount of pollution as 50 million cars. The emissions from 15 of these mega-ships match those from all the cars in the world. And if the shipping industry were a country, it would be ranked between Germany and Japan as the sixth-largest contributor to global CO2 emissions.

Most of the pollution occurs far out at sea, out of the sight and minds of consumers – and out of the reach of any government. Now, an alliance of environmentalists, researchers and industry organisations, as well as ship owners and builders, fed up with the sluggishness of the industry’s response to its emissions problem, is attempting to do something about it.

Initially, their goals are to encourage ships to sail at slower speeds to reduce emissions, to persuade owners to share data with each other to encourage efficiency, and even to help shipping companies find new ways to make money in the low-carbon economy.


Not really improving, is it.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up No.1,031: Apple sort-of launches video, Asus PCs hacked via updates, ONS on automation risks, and more

Got your mood lighting? Your mood music app will come up with appropriate sounds – for a price. CC-licensed photo by Araceli Arroyo 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 13 links for you. Taking back being out of control. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

I can’t use Rift S, and neither can you • The Blog of Palmer Luckey

Let Mr Virtual Reality tell you:


[Oculus] Rift S is very cool! It takes concepts that have been around for years and puts them into a fully functional product for the first time. Sure, sure, I see people complaining about how Rift S is worse than CV1 concerning audio quality, display characteristics, and ergonomics – some of the tradeoffs are real, some are imaginary, and people should really wait for it to come out before passing final judgement. All in all, it is going to be a great HMD.

For about 70% of the population.

My IPD (interpupillary distance, the distance between my eyes) is a hair under 70mm and slightly skewed to the right side of my face. One of my best friends has an IPD of 59mm. I don’t know what your IPD is, but both of us were perfectly served by the IPD adjustment mechanism on Rift CV1, a mechanism that was an important part of our goal to be compatible with male and female users from 5th to 95th percentile. Anyone within the supported range (about 58mm to 72mm) got a perfect optical experience – field curvature on the focal plane was matched, geometric distortion was properly corrected, world scale was at the right size, and pupil swim was more or less even. Sharp imagery from edge to edge of your field of view was the norm. The small handful of people with an IPD outside that range would not get a perfect experience, but at least they would be in the right ballpark. IPD skews in different directions by gender, race, and age, but we managed to cover almost everyone, and we were proud of that.

This is not the case with Rift S.


This all feels like the long slow death of VR to me. It just never gets that virtuous circle.
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Cryptocurrency miner Bitmain’s IPO plans at risk of being shelved • Financial Times

Louise Lucas:


Bitmain Technologies’ application for a blockbuster initial public offering will lapse this week, after the fall in the price of bitcoin spoiled the fortunes of the world’s biggest cryptocurrency miner.

Bitmain filed to list its shares in Hong Kong in September, setting the stage for what was expected to be world’s largest cryptocurrency IPO. The Beijing-based company, which makes and sells kit for cryptocurrency mining, had been planning to raise up to $3bn in the listing, according to bankers.

Bitmain’s prospectus detailed three years of phenomenal growth, with revenues surging ninefold, to $2.84bn, in the six months to the end of June 2018. But the plunge in the price of bitcoin — which is currently trading at less than one-quarter of the value of its December 2017 peak — has spooked investors. Bitcoin’s current price makes mining it virtually unprofitable.

A discrepancy between the numbers Bitmain showed private investors and those in the prospectus sparked further concerns.


That discrepancy was significantly smaller profits stated in the IPO prospectus than in documents it provided to get earlier funding rounds. Bitmain is looking like a stack of shaky claims piled high. It’s also rumoured to have cashflow problems.
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It sure looks like Google’s $599 Celeron Pixel Slate is dead • Android Police

David Ruddock:


The $599 and $699 versions of the Pixel Slate brought sub-iPad Pro pricing to Google’s prosumer tablet, even if it turned out that the tablet itself beat the iPad in pretty much no sense that mattered. Marques Brownlee, typically known for his easy-going takes and willingness to embrace misunderstood tech products, basically called the cheaper Celeron Slate a turd. This was not a good look for Google. Shortly after that, the Celeron Pixel Slate showed up as sold out on the Google Store, and that status hasn’t changed since.

Is it possible Google manufactured such a small quantity of them and demand was so high that the entire initial batch was snapped up? Sure, it’s possible. But given that entry-level SKUs for products like tablets and phones tend to be the most popular, it would have been foolish of Google to assume that demand for the Celeron models would have been lower than the Core m3 and i5 variants you can still buy right now, which cost $799 and $999, respectively. Even the m3 model, though, represents a $200 price hike over the basic Celeron version, which effectively has made the Pixel Slate an $800 tablet – not the $600 one it advertised at launch. That feels like kind of a bait and switch.

What did Google have to say about all this? Frankly, they may as well have said nothing at all – their statement to 9to5 was an embarrassing sidestep of the question.


Yup, sure looks like the low-end version has gone for a ride in the mountains with a shovel. It barely existed; the famous Marques Brownlee was very disparaging about it for being too low-powered. You want to make a tablet-laptop combo? Go ahead, but use a processor that can drive it.
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Apple unveils Apple Arcade subscription service for iOS, Mac, Apple TV games • Ars Technica

Samuel Axon:


Apple today announced a new subscription service called Apple Arcade for games on its platforms, including iPad, iPhone, Mac, and Apple TV. The service will debut “this fall.” Its exact price has not yet been confirmed.

The paid-subscription service will include games “unavailable on any other mobile service,” Apple confirmed, and it will launch with “over 100 new and exclusive games.” A sizzle reel of flashy games appeared at today’s Apple event, and it largely focused on indie games that haven’t yet launched on either traditional or mobile platforms yet. One notable exception: there was a brief shot of an apparently unannounced Sonic the Hedgehog game.

By paying the subscription fee, players will have access to all games for as long as they want with no limits or microtransactions attached. Shared family accounts will have access to the titles and parental controls for no additional charge. And the service’s multi-device support extends to letting iOS gamers suspend an Apple Arcade game on their phone, then resume playing it on another device, or vice versa.

As previously reported by Cheddar, Apple will publish games itself, but today’s event didn’t include news about specific first-party titles or efforts.


The offline element seems like a response to Google Stadia (though obviously it’s not; the two have been on separate tracks for months).
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What’s in Apple’s video service, how much will it cost, and why should we pay for it? • Recode



I have some questions about Apple’s new video service:

• What, exactly, is Apple going to have in its new video service?
• What, if anything, will Apple’s new video service cost?
• Why would someone pay anything for Apple’s new video service?

I’ve had these questions for a couple of years, but I figured I would have answers to them today because I just spent two hours watching Tim Cook and other Apple executives show off a new suite of Apple services, with Apple’s video offering as the showstopper.

Nope! Still haven’t found what I’m looking for. [Prize for best U2 joke. – CA]

In lieu of answers, Cook and his team did a high-gloss version of hand-waving at their Cupertino, California, HQ today: they brought out Very Big Stars like Steven Spielberg, Reese Witherspoon, and Oprah Winfrey to tell a worldwide audience that they were indeed working on projects that you might be able to see as soon as this fall. Musician Sara Bareilles played a song on an onstage piano.

Apple did promise that the subscription service would be ad-free and that it would be available in more than 100 countries. And it played the briefest of sizzle reels, which allowed the audience to see that Apple’s production team has indeed shot footage for some of its shows.

But that was it, and that was surprising.


Apple’s language was very vague – but I understand that it’s vague when talking to people about commissioning TV content too. I think it’s going to launch this stuff (not until autumn) and see what people want. And then it will start commissioning stuff with more clarity. But that’s going to mean a lacuna of a couple of years (it takes a long time to commission and produce worthwhile video). Don’t forget that Netflix took many years to become a powerhouse in original commissioning.
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Exclusive: first look at Apple’s new AirPods-like ‘Powerbeats Pro’ truly wireless sport headphones • 9to5Mac

Guilherme Rambo:


Last week, a report suggested that Apple is planning to release a “truly wireless” version of Beats Powerbeats headphones next month. Today’s release of iOS 12.2 includes imagery of the new headphones, which we now know will be called Powerbeats Pro.

Hidden in iOS 12.2 are animations and images that showcase Powerbeats without any sort of connecting wire. In terms of design, they’re nearly identical to Powerbeats3, but truly wireless much like AirPods. The glyphs show Powerbeats Pro in black and white color variations.

Furthermore, iOS 12.2 includes an image of the Powerbeats Pro charging case. This case looks similar to the AirPods case, and will theoretically charge your Powerbeats Pro buds when not in use. Powerbeats3 today offer battery life of up to 12 hours, but it’s unclear if the truly wireless version would be able to match that. The charging case, however, would make it easier for users to charge while on the go.

Powerbeats remain a popular alternative to AirPods due to their more workout-friendly design. There are clips to help each earbud stay in place, as well as different ear tip designs to accommodate different ear sizes and noise cancellation needs.


Maybe they should have announced these on Monday as the “one more thing”. Coming out next month, apparently. AirPods for people whose ears aren’t a fit for AirPods.
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Hackers hijacked ASUS software updates to install backdoors on thousands of computers • Motherboard



Researchers at cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab say that ASUS, one of the world’s largest computer makers, was used to unwittingly install a malicious backdoor on thousands of its customers’ computers last year after attackers compromised a server for the company’s live software update tool. The malicious file was signed with legitimate ASUS digital certificates to make it appear to be an authentic software update from the company, Kaspersky Lab says…

…The researchers estimate half a million Windows machines received the malicious backdoor through the ASUS update server, although the attackers appear to have been targeting only about 600 of those systems. The malware searched for targeted systems through their unique MAC addresses. Once on a system, if it found one of these targeted addresses, the malware reached out to a command-and-control server the attackers operated, which then installed additional malware on those machines.

Kaspersky Lab said it uncovered the attack in January after adding a new supply-chain detection technology to its scanning tool to catch anomalous code fragments hidden in legitimate code or catch code that is hijacking normal operations on a machine. The company plans to release a full technical paper and presentation about the ASUS attack, which it has dubbed ShadowHammer, next month at its Security Analyst Summit in Singapore. In the meantime, Kaspersky has published some of the technical details on its website.


Asus, you won’t be surprised to hear, hadn’t responded by publication time. What’s notable here is that it’s nation-state attack stuff: using a security certificate and targeting specific machines. Given that Asus is Taiwanese, I’d immediately suspect China trying to spy on Taiwanese government sources.
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Which occupations are at highest risk of being automated? • Office for National Statistics


The analysis looked at the tasks performed by people in jobs across the whole labour market, to assess the probability that some of these tasks could be replaced through automation.

It is not so much that robots are taking over, but that routine and repetitive tasks can be carried out more quickly and efficiently by an algorithm written by a human, or a machine designed for one specific function. The risk of automation tends to be higher for lower-skilled roles for this reason.

When considering the overall risk of automation, the three occupations with the highest probability of automation are waiters and waitresses, shelf fillers and elementary sales occupations, all of which are low skilled or routine.

The three occupations at the lowest risk of automation are medical practitioners, higher education teaching professionals, and senior professionals of educational establishments. These occupations are all considered high skilled.


The data also includes a breakdown of where the most likely areas are. London’s pricey Kensington + Chelsea and Wandsworth areas, stuffed with MPs in their second homes, is the least at risk. Boston in Lancashire and Mansfield in the midlands – which, as it happens, voted 76% and 70% in favour of leaving the EU – are at the highest risk of job automation.
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Warner enters into distribution partnership with a mood music algorithm • Pitchfork

Matthew Strauss:


Endel is an app that creates personalized music for you based on a mood that you can request. For example, if you would like to enter “Relax Mode,” the algorithm will create music that “calms your mind to create feelings of comfort and safety,” according to the app’s description. This week (March 21), Warner Music Group announced that it has partnered with Endel to distribute 20 albums this year through WMG’s Arts Division.

Endel has already released five albums this year, all part of its Sleep series: Clear Night, Rainy Night, Cloudy Afternoon, Cloudy Night, and Foggy Morning. The next 15 album will correspond with the app’s other modes: Relax, Focus, and On-the-Go.


And here’s an extract from a review on iTunes – note that the app requires a monthly or annual subscription:


Ok, I’ve had the free trial for a week now, and I feel I can safely say that this app isn’t some algorithmic genius, it’s simply a pleasing ambient album. For example, there are two distinct tracks on the sleep channel, and that’s it, no matter if sometimes a somewhat ancillary ticking clock is playing instead of a white noise filter sweep mimicking the ocean.

There’s no shame at all in making a good ambient album. They’ve done that. But the description of the app is truly misleading and tries to represent this app as something more. And on top of that, it charges an ongoing subscription fee that is not equivalent to the market price of an album, which, again, is what this is. Sorry, but I’m not gonna subscribe and have to renew $25 every year for the latest Carly Rae Jepsen album either.


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A tragedy that calls for more than words: the need for the tech sector to learn and act after events in New Zealand • Microsoft on the Issues

Brad Smith is Microsoft’s chief lawyer:


we need to develop an industrywide approach that will be principled, comprehensive and effective. The best way to pursue this is to take new and concrete steps quickly in ways that build upon what already exists.

There are in fact important recent steps on which we can build. Just over two years ago, thanks in part to the leadership and urging of the British and the European Commission, four companies – YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft – came together to create the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (GIFCT). Among other things, the group’s members have created a shared hash database of terrorist content and developed photo and video matching and text-based machine learning techniques to identify and thwart the spread of violence on their platforms. These technologies were used more than a million times in 24 hours to stop the distribution of the video from Christchurch.

While these are vital steps, one of the lessons from New Zealand is that the industry rightly will be judged not only by what it prevented, but by what it failed to stop. And from this perspective, there is clearly much more that needs to be done. As Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern noted last week, gone are the days when tech companies can think of their platforms akin to a postal service without regard to the responsibilities embraced by other content publishers. Even if the law in some countries gives digital platforms an exemption from decency requirements, the public rightly expects tech companies to apply a higher standard.


Much easier for Microsoft to advocate this because it’s not as if it runs any gigantic social networks. (Well, Xbox Live, but is that known as a sinkhole of white supremacists?)
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Moral crumple zones: cautionary tales in human-robot interaction • Engaging Science, Technology, and Society

Madeleine Clare Elish:


Analyzing several high-profile accidents involving complex and automated socio-technical systems and the media coverage that surrounded them, I introduce the concept of a moral crumple zone to describe how responsibility for an action may be misattributed to a human actor who had limited control over the behavior of an automated or autonomous system. Just as the crumple zone in a car is designed to absorb the force of impact in a crash, the human in a highly complex and automated system may become simply a component—accidentally or intentionally—that bears the brunt of the moral and legal responsibilities when the overall system malfunctions. While the crumple zone in a car is meant to protect the human driver, the moral crumple zone protects the integrity of the technological system, at the expense of the nearest human operator. The concept is both a challenge to and an opportunity for the design and regulation of human-robot systems.


Neat idea. (The text is available under a Creative Commons licence.)
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Man pleads guilty in $100m scam of Facebook and Google • Bloomberg

Chris Dolmetsch:


Prosecutors alleged that Rimasauskas, along with some unidentified co-conspirators, helped orchestrate a scheme in which fake emails were sent to employees and agents of the two tech giants. The thieves pretended to represent Taiwanese hardware maker Quanta Computer. They told Facebook and Google workers that the companies owed Quanta money, and then directed payments be sent to bank accounts controlled by the scammers.

“Rimasauskas thought he could hide behind a computer screen halfway across the world while he conducted his fraudulent scheme, but as he has learned, the arms of American justice are long, and he now faces significant time in a U.S. prison,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan said in a statement.

Dressed in tan prison clothing and speaking in Russian through a translator, Rimasauskas told the judge he took part in the fraud scheme from October 2013 to October 2015, posing as a Quanta employee, creating fake bank accounts in Latvia and Cyprus to receive the scammed proceeds, and signing fake contracts and documents that were submitted to banks to support the wire transfers…

…The scheme netted about $23m from Google in 2013 and about $98m from Facebook in 2015, according to a person familiar with the case, who asked not to be named because the companies haven’t been publicly identified by prosecutors as the victims.


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YouTube cancels two originals but says it’ll keep making premium content (update) • Engadget

Saqib Shah:


As streaming giants dig deeper into their pockets for more video content, some projects often fall by the wayside. Following a report by Bloomberg, YouTube has confirmed it has canceled two of its high-profile shows: sci-fi thriller Origin and comedy Overthinking with Kat & June. Bloomberg also alleged that the video service is no longer accepting pitches for big-budget scripted content, but Google has denied that is the case.

Instead, YouTube has pointed to a slate of upcoming global productions that it says will be announced in the coming weeks. A new ad-supported model for its programming will also be in place by the end of the year.

YouTube’s chief business officer Robert Kyncl said in November that many of its originals, which are currently available to YouTube Premium subscribers, would soon be accessible for free. They include a mix of films (The Thinning, Viper Club), reality shows starring YouTubers (Scare PewDiePie, Prank Academy), series (Wayne, Impulse), and documentaries (BTS Burn the Stage, Ariana Grande: Dangerous Woman Diaries).


Some are spending, some are cutting back.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: OK, so on those “unique links”. It’s just possible that they will work even from the email now so that you can share them with your friends (and enemies). Knock yourselves out. I now realise, of course, that they don’t need to be MD5’d.

Start Up No.1,030: the content on Apple’s TV service, AirPods ahoy!, Brexit in perspective, bitcoin’s fake trading, big oil’s Facebook lobbying, and more

“Welcome to your room! Oh, ignore the camera, it’s not wired up. Unless they pay the fee.” CC-licensed photo by Mick Stanic 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 13 links for you. Not left yet. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

A data scientist designed a social media influencer account that’s 100% automated • Buzzfeed News

Katie Notopoulos:


Buetti, a data scientist by trade, decided to use his actual skills and automate the hard work of influencing by writing a program that recruited an audience of 25,000 (by autofollowing their accounts in hopes of getting a follow back), and reposted photographers’ eye-catching photos of New York City for his growing entourage to engage with (“😍🤗🤗🤗great shot💕,” one person commented). Poof: @beautiful.newyorkcity was born — an active, popular, and 100% artificial Instagram account. For Buetti, it’s the perfect solution if you don’t want to actually dedicate time to curating an online following, but still want to score free spaghetti from restaurants seeking publicity. His program even finds restaurant accounts in New York, and sends them direct messages offering to promote them to followers in exchange for a comped meal — and no, it does not disclose that @beautiful.newyorkcity is run by a robot.

Behold the latest chapter in the dark art of social media influencing, which despite being widely plagued with bots and fake engagement, continues to attract real interest from marketers and businesses. Buetti’s account has (at least some) real followers, but the influencing itself is being handled by some code rather than an eager personality. It’s a lifestyle brand generated by something that’s not alive.


It’s essentially the logical end state of influencer accounts.
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Opinion : Britain is drowning itself in nostalgia • The New York Times

Sam Byers:


when the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights visited Britain last year, his verdict was damning, depicting not a nation “picking itself up when things get tough” and “quietly making history” but a society in which, as he put it, “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, meanspirited and often callous approach.” We are even, in point of fact, going off tea.

Our inability to state difficult truths without first offering some reassuring patriotism accounts, in some ways, for the failure of the Remain argument. In making a negative case against leaving the European Union — that it will cause irreparable harm to the economy, that vital flows of food and medicine may be disrupted, that we will consign ourselves to bit-part status on the global stage — Remainers’ concerns have been dismissed as traitorous fantasy, the manipulative catastrophizing of what Brexiteers call “Project Fear.”

And so, all too often, Remainers reach for the same dreamy jingoism as those who would have us violently depart the European Union with no terms in place. There is no patriotic argument for Remain because Brexit itself is a cautionary argument against blind national pride. It’s precisely this empty, hopeless paradox that in June 2016 led to Prime Minister David Cameron, in a last-ditch effort to persuade voters to side with the European Union, telling us, pathetically, that “Brits don’t quit.” It’s also, one assumes, why in January a group of German political leaders and prominent figures encouraging Britain to stay in the Union wrote an open letter not to make a case for Brussels but to appeal to our beverage-sipping sense of self, writing that if we left, they would miss “going to the pub after work hours to drink an ale” and “tea with milk and driving on the left-hand side of the road” — a gale of pure wind with all the meaninglessness of a British Airways ad.


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With the iPhone sputtering, Apple bets its future on TV and news • WSJ

Tripp Mickle:


The original series will be delivered in a new TV app that staff have been calling a Netflix killer. It will make it easier for people to subscribe with a single click to channels such as Starz, Showtime and HBO, with which Apple has been negotiating to offer their shows to users for $9.99 a month each, people familiar with the talks said.

Apple has been negotiating to bring its new TV app to multiple platforms, including Roku and smart TVs, according to people familiar with the talks—an unusual move for a company that has long preferred to limit its software and services to its own devices. Some of those distribution agreements are expected to be announced Monday.

At the same event, Apple plans to showcase a revamped News app that includes a premium tier with access to more than 200 magazines—including Bon Appétit, People and Glamour—as well as newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal. It plans to charge $9.99 for the service and believes the premium news content can lift engagement on its devices, people familiar with the plans said. The New York Times earlier reported on the Journal’s participation.

As part of the arrangement, much of the Journal’s content will be available through the service, although certain types of stories—particularly general news, politics and lifestyles news—will be showcased, while business and finance news won’t be displayed as prominently, according to people familiar with the situation. The deal will result in the Journal hiring more reporters focused on general news to help feed Apple’s product, one of the people said. The Journal sells its own subscriptions for $39 a month.


Tidy sum if people subscribe to news and TV. But will it be more compelling than Netflix?
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Why Netflix won’t be part of Apple TV • The New York Times

Edmund Lee:


From HBO’s perspective, allowing itself to become part of Apple’s streaming effort is not that different from selling its wares via Comcast or DirecTV. It’s just another sales outlet. Even HBO’s own streaming service, HBO Now, had a slow start until Amazon Prime started marketing it. With the push from Amazon, the number of HBO Now subscribers nearly doubled, to five million. (HBO currently has more than seven million online customers, with those who subscribed through Amazon counting for a smaller proportion.)

But that kind of indifference could cut against AT&T’s own plans to sell content directly to people. The wireless giant will have to weigh the value of the distribution muscle of Apple or Amazon or Hulu against its own needs. Why did AT&T buy Time Warner (which also included CNN, TNT and Warner Bros.) if not to jump-start its own streaming bundle?

It’s worth noting that Apple is hyping its new service at a time when sales of its most lucrative product, the iPhone, have started to lag. It stopped reporting how many devices it sold as of September. Now, it wants investors to look at another line item — its foray into the media business, which is stable and steadily growing. Apple hopes it will grow even faster with the help of Hollywood.

Interestingly, that line item (listed as “Services” on the Apple income statement) was once little more than a balance-sheet curiosity. Now, it’s a $40bn business. The forthcoming bundle could add more than $12bn to that, according to an estimate from Goldman Sachs.


Having HBO on board will be pretty enormous for Apple TV. For a lot of cord-cutters in the US, that’s going to be a reason enough on its own.
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Mike Lynch heads to London’s High Court in $5bn legal battle • Financial Times

Jane Croft and Aliya Ram:


seven years ago, the tech entrepreneur and investor became embroiled in one of the world’s longest-running accounting scandals, after he was accused by US tech giant Hewlett-Packard of participating in serious accounting irregularities before HP paid $11bn to buy his company, Autonomy.

Mr Lynch, who has long denied the allegations, is now gearing up to fight a blockbuster $5bn civil fraud trial in London’s High Court, which is set to begin on Monday.

The case may have wide-reaching implications for the UK tech sector, which has largely stood by Mr Lynch, despite hushed conversations about the future of his other businesses and concerns among his former business partners.

HP filed the lawsuit against Mr Lynch and former Autonomy chief financial officer Sushovan Hussain in 2015, alleging that the two men were behind the fraudulent manipulation of Autonomy’s accounting information on a massive scale, leading to HP paying an extra $5bn for the company.


Losing this would be calamitous for Lynch, obviously. But it’s hard to argue that HP did the due diligence.
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South Korea spycam: hundreds of motel guests secretly filmed and live-streamed online • CNN

Sophie Jeong and James Griffiths:


About 1,600 people have been secretly filmed in motel rooms in South Korea, with the footage live-streamed online for paying customers to watch, police said Wednesday.

Two men have been arrested and another pair investigated in connection with the scandal, which involved 42 rooms in 30 accommodations in 10 cities around the country. Police said there was no indication the businesses were complicit in the scheme.

In South Korea, small hotels of the type involved in this case are generally referred to as motels or inns.

Cameras were hidden inside digital TV boxes, wall sockets and hairdryer holders and the footage was streamed online, the Cyber Investigation Department at the National Police Agency said in a statement.

The site had more than 4,000 members, 97 of whom paid a $44.95 monthly fee to access extra features, such as the ability to replay certain live streams. Between November 2018 and this month, police said, the service brought in upward of $6,000.


I mean, in the context of video services that’s pretty pricey, isn’t it. Shouldn’t staying at the hotel have been free? That’s normally how these surveillance services work online?
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Why Apple AirPods came to be everywhere • GQ

Jon Wilde:


the one AirPods moment that provides my most consistent idiot-glee dopamine hit is the clicky magnetic case lid. I flick it open, closed, open, closed relentlessly in my coat pocket while I’m walking—a minor-key tactile addiction that’s reflexive at this point. Apple’s Jony Ive says a lot of man hours were spent to bring me this idiot-glee dopamine hit.

“When you are going to have objects that are inherently very mechanical, I think that it’s so important that you pay attention to all aspects of the design. There is color and form and the overall sort of architecture, but then those more difficult-to-define and concept behaviors, like the noise of a click and the force of a magnet that draws something closed,” says Ive. “I mean, for example, one of the things that we struggled with was the way that the case orients the AirPod as you put them in. I love those details, that you’ve had no idea how fabulously we got that wrong, for so long, as we were designing and developing it. When you get them right I think they don’t demand a lot from you but they contribute far more than people are necessarily aware for your sense of joy and using a product.

And this is, I think, the reason for the slow path to everywhereness that Apple’s AirPods have taken. They may be the best-selling product Apple makes right now, but they’re also the ones that most require word-of-mouth, or a leap of faith. With them, Apple fixed the annoying things about wireless headphones, which you didn’t realize could be fixed until you bought a pair. And Apple made the act of using those headphones tactile and satisfying and sometimes surprisingly delightful, but you wouldn’t know until you splurged on a pair.


Interviews with Ive tend towards the gnomic. I don’t think he’s trying to be obscure; it’s that he has feelings about what he wants to describe which he finds really hard to put into concise sentences.
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This spyware data leak is so bad we can’t even tell you about it • Motherboard

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:


This breach is just the latest in a seemingly endless series of exposures or leaks of incredibly sensitive data collected by companies that promise to provide services for parents to keep children safe, monitor employees, or spy on spouses. In the last two years, there have been 12 stalkerware companies that have either been breached or left data exposed online: Retina-X (twice), FlexiSpy, Mobistealth, Spy Master Pro, SpyHuman, Spyfone, TheTruthSpy, Family Orbit, mSpy, Copy9, and Xnore.

We can’t tell you the name of the company that’s the latest—but certainly not the last—to join that list. That’s because despite our repeated efforts to alert the company to the leak, it has yet to fix the problem or acknowledge our request for comment. Because the leaked data violates the privacy of hundreds if not thousands of people, and because that data is still very easy for anyone to find and access, even naming the company publicly could lead bad actors to expose it.

The exposed database was found by security researcher Cian Heasley, who contacted us when he found it earlier this year. The database is still online, and has been online for at least six weeks. Pictures and audio recordings are still being uploaded to it nearly every day. We won’t name the company to protect the victims who may be getting spied on without their consent or knowledge, and—on top of that—are having their pictures and calls uploaded to a server open to anyone with an internet connection.


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Huawei CFO had a penchant for rival Apple products, it seems • Bloomberg

Natalie Obiko Pearson:


When Canadian police arrested Meng Wanzhou at the behest of the US on a Dec. 1 stopover at Vancouver International Airport, they seized her iPhone 7 Plus, a MacBook Air and an iPad Pro, according to a court filing Friday.

Her defence lawyers filed an application seeking a copy of the data stored on the equipment, and for those devices to be subsequently sealed. The crown prosecution consented and the devices will be transferred “to the British Columbia Supreme Court Registry pending an assessment of solicitor-client privilege,” Canada’s justice department said in an email.

Huawei has been known to get touchy when lesser employees have used iPhones — it demoted and cut the pay of two employees held responsible after the company’s official New Year’s greetings went out “via Twitter for iPhone.” China’s biggest telecoms gear maker, which supplanted Apple as the world’s No. 2 smartphone brand in 2018, is gunning for the top spot.


So.. not a Huawei phone, tablet or computer? This is like Tim Cook being found using a Surface Go and a Windows Phone.
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Most bitcoin trading faked by unregulated exchanges, study finds • WSJ

Paul Vigna:


Nearly 95% of all reported trading in bitcoin is artificially created by unregulated exchanges, a new study concludes, raising fresh doubts about the nascent market following a steep decline in prices over the past year.

Fraudulent trading volume has dogged cryptocurrency trading for years, but the extent of the market manipulation has been difficult to determine. Bitwise Asset Management said its analysis of trading activity at 81 exchanges over four days in March indicates that the actual market for bitcoin is far smaller than previously thought.

The San Francisco-based company submitted its research to the US Securities and Exchange Commission with an application to launch a bitcoin-based exchange-traded fund. The study, made public Thursday, is an attempt to alleviate the agency’s longstanding concerns that a bitcoin ETF would leave investors exposed to fraud and market manipulation.


Bitwise’s cunning plan is that it will have a fund based in 10 regulated exchanges that can verify their trading data. Which means that of an apparent $6bn of reported daily volume is actually $273m of real money; the rest is shuffled about between liquidity enablers such as Tether, into bitcoin, back out. That still seems like a lot of money.
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About incompatible media in Final Cut Pro X • Apple



As part of the upcoming transition from 32-bit to 64-bit technology in macOS, you may see an alert in Final Cut Pro or Motion about legacy media files that won’t be compatible with future versions of macOS, released after macOS Mojave.
These incompatible media files were most likely created using formats or codecs that rely on QuickTime 7—an older version of QuickTime that is included in macOS Mojave for compatibility purposes. However, because versions of macOS after macOS Mojave will no longer include the QuickTime 7 framework, you’ll first need to detect and convert legacy media files to continue to use those files in Final Cut Pro.1
Before you upgrade to the next major version of macOS after macOS Mojave, make sure to convert all incompatible media files. After you upgrade, the option to convert the incompatible files will no longer be available.


It’s a long list of formats, such as 3ivx MP4, VP9 (which is Google’s?), DivX, Flash Video, JPEG 2000, RealVideo (ah, memories of RealPlayer), and Windows Media Video (WMV) 7, 8 and 9. This is probably going to bite quite a lot of people.
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How Twitter’s algorithm is amplifying extreme political rhetoric • CNN

Oliver Darcy:


Over the last several months, Twitter has begun inserting what it believes to be relevant and popular tweets into the feeds of people who do not subscribe to the accounts that posted them. In other words, Twitter has started showing users tweets from accounts that are followed by those they follow. This practice is different from the promoted content paid for by advertisers, as Twitter is putting these posts into the feeds of users without being paid and without consent from users.

Twitter said its goal with the practice is to expose users to new accounts and content that they might be interested in. In some situations, the practice is innocuous and perhaps even beneficial. For instance, if someone is watching the Super Bowl, but doesn’t follow Tom Brady, it might be useful for them to see his post-game tweet.
Relying on an algorithm to insert politically-oriented tweets into the feed of users, however, appears to come with unintended consequences. Some tweets contain extreme political rhetoric and/or advance conspiracy theories. And they are regularly posted by media or internet personalities who hold fringe views (many are also verified, giving them an added sense of credibility to people who may not be familiar with them), exposing users on the platform to radical content they may otherwise have not encountered.

In effect, the practice means Twitter may at times end up amplifying inflammatory political rhetoric, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and flat out lies to its users. This comes at a time when other platforms, like YouTube, are facing intense criticism for using algorithms to suggest content to users.


The god of “engagement” defeats the god of “is this really a good idea?” once again.
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Top oil firms spending millions lobbying to block climate change policies, says report • The Guardian

Sandra Laville:


In the run-up to the US midterm elections last year $2m was spent on targeted Facebook and Instagram ads by global oil giants and their industry bodies, promoting the benefits of increased fossil fuel production, according to the report published on Friday by InfluenceMap.

Separately, BP donated $13m to a campaign, also supported by Chevron, that successfully stopped a carbon tax in Washington state – $1m of which was spent on social media ads, the research shows.

Edward Collins, the report’s author, analysed corporate spending on lobbying, briefing and advertising, and assessed what proportion was dedicated to climate issues.

He said: “Oil majors’ climate branding sounds increasingly hollow and their credibility is on the line. They publicly support climate action while lobbying against binding policy. They advocate low-carbon solutions but such investments are dwarfed by spending on expanding their fossil fuel business.”

After the Paris climate agreement in 2015 the large integrated oil and gas companies said they supported a price on carbon and formed groups like the Oil and Gas Climate Initiative which promote voluntary measures.

But, the report states, there is a glaring gap between their words and their actions.

The five publicly listed oil majors – ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, BP and Total – now spend about $195m a year on branding campaigns suggesting they support action against climate change.


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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: who knows, it’s possible that the “unique links” will actually work from email as well as the web, because they’re now absolute URLs. Try it and see!

Start Up No.1,029: Kushner’s WhatsApp use queried, Boeing charged for safety update, 8channer regrets, and more

Oh look, it’s Instagram’s algorithm in action. CC-licensed photo by Valerie Hinojosa 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. Collision avoidance systems on. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Cummings demands docs on Kushner’s alleged use of WhatsApp for official business • POLITICO

Andrew Desiderio and Kyle Cheney:


House Democrats are raising new concerns about what they say is recently revealed information from Jared Kushner’s attorney indicating that the senior White House aide has been relying on encrypted messaging service WhatsApp and his personal email account to conduct official business.

The revelation came in a Dec. 19 meeting — made public by the House Oversight and Reform Committee for the first time on Thursday — between Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Rep. Trey Gowdy, the former chairman of the oversight panel, and Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell.

Cummings, who now leads the Oversight Committee, says in a new letter to White House Counsel Pat Cipollone that Lowell confirmed to the two lawmakers that Kushner “continues to use” WhatsApp to conduct White House business. Cummings also indicated that Lowell told them he was unsure whether Kushner had ever used WhatsApp to transmit classified information.

“That’s above my pay grade,” Lowell told the lawmakers, per Cummings’ letter.

Lowell added, according to Cummings, that Kushner is in compliance with recordkeeping law. Lowell told the lawmakers that Kushner takes screenshots of his messages and forwards them to his White House email in order to comply with records preservation laws, Cummings indicated.

Kushner, whom the president charged with overseeing the administration’s Middle East policies, reportedly has communicated with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman via WhatsApp.


Hmm. Kushner’s an utterly talentless ballsack, but I can’t see using WhatsApp as bad – especially compared to using email. There’s no evidence it has ever been cracked. It’s as insecure as your phone login – and you can decide if that’s high or medium or low. Governments all over the place get things done via WhatsApp. I’d always recommend it over email, which offers far more targets to break into.
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It took ten seconds for Instagram to push me into an anti-vaxx rabbit hole • Motherboard

Joseph Cox:


On Wednesday, I created a fresh Instagram account, and followed ‘Beware the Needle’, a user with 34,000 followers which posts a steady stream of anti-vaccination content. I also followed the user’s “backup” account mentioned in its bio, the creator clearly aware that Instagram may soon ban them. Instagram’s “Suggested for You” feature then recommended I follow other accounts, including “Vaccines are Genocide” and “Vaccine Truth.” I followed the latter, and checked which accounts Instagram now thought would be a good fit for me: another 24 accounts that were either explicitly against vaccinations in their profile description, or that posted anti-vaccine content.

They included pseudo-scientists claiming that vaccines cause autism; accounts with tens of thousands of followers promising the “truth” around vaccinations through memes and images of misleading statistics, as well as individual mothers spouting the perceived, but false, dangers of vaccinating children against measles, polio, and other diseases.

“The sheep continue to line up for the massacre. No questions asked,” the caption on a post from “Vaccine Truth” reads.


Slaves to the algorithm.
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Instagram is full of conspiracy theories and extremism • The Atlantic

Taylor Lorenz:


When Alex, now a high-school senior, saw an Instagram account he followed post about something called QAnon back in 2017, he’d never heard of the viral conspiracy theory before. But the post piqued his interest, and he wanted to know more. So he did what your average teenager would do: He followed several accounts related to it on Instagram, searched for information on YouTube, and read up on it on forums.

A year and a half later, Alex, who asked to use a pseudonym, runs his own Gen Z–focused QAnon Instagram account, through which he educates his generation about the secret plot by the “deep state” to take down Donald Trump. “I was just noticing a lack in younger people being interested in QAnon, so I figured I would put it out there that there was at least one young person in the movement,” he told me via Instagram direct message. He hopes to “expose the truth about everything corrupt governments and organizations have lied about.” Among those truths: that certain cosmetics and foods contain aborted fetal cells, that the recent Ethiopian Airlines crash was a hoax, and that the Christchurch, New Zealand mosque shootings were staged.

Instagram is teeming with these conspiracy theories, viral misinformation, and extremist memes, all daisy-chained together via a network of accounts with incredible algorithmic reach and millions of collective followers—many of whom, like Alex, are very young.


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YouTubers are fighting algorithms as they try to make good content for kids • Motherboard

Caroline Haskins:


not all of kids YouTube is a hellscape. In fact, the ecosystem is also home to an entirely different kind of channel: human beings trying to become characters like Mister Rogers, the Wiggles, or a PBS kids show for a new generation. By and large, these YouTubers are striving to make genuinely good, enriching, educational content for children.

These channels are fighting to game YouTube’s algorithm to reach young audiences. According to interviews with several of theseYouTube channels, however, they’re at a structural disadvantage to compete with channels that make massive amounts of animated videos.

“It’s difficult for channels like mine to compete with them too, because they can do like two three videos a day, or at least a few a week,” Mike Moore, who runs Brain Candy TV—an animated learning channel with 186,000 subscribers—told Motherboard in a phone call. “It takes me a month or two to make a video. You don’t get as much watch time from that.”

…To many parents, YouTube is also the cheapest and sometimes only option to keep kids entertained. Millennials, some of whom are becoming new parents, by and large don’t have cable. According to the Pew Research Center, only 31% of people aged 18 to 29 have a cable or satellite subscription, and that number only rises to 52% for people aged 30 to 49.

For parents that need to keep their kids entertained, it seems obvious to lean on YouTube—a free service that doesn’t require cable. YouTube is also accessible on mobile devices, meaning that parents can use it when they travel with their kids.

But YouTube wasn’t constructed to prioritize the development and well-being of young children. It’s an ad-driven business, and it relies on a mystery recommendation algorithm designed to keep people on the site, and viewing ads, for as long as possible. The people competing on the platform to reach children are just pawns within YouTube’s business interests.


The detail in this piece – about the number of animators, the mindlessness of the content – is quite amazing. Is this how an older generation felt about their children growing up watching TV?
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Newspapers help to radicalise far right, says UK anti-terror chief • The Guardian

Jim Waterson:


Britain’s counter-terrorism chief has said far-right terrorists are being radicalised by mainstream newspaper coverage, while also criticising the hypocrisy of outlets such as Mail Online, which uploaded the “manifesto” of the gunman in the Christchurch terror attack.

Neil Basu, one of Britain’s top police officers, said it was ironic that while newspapers have repeatedly criticised the likes of Facebook and Google for hosting extremist content, sites including the Sun and the Mirror rushed to upload clips of footage filmed by the gunman as he attacked two mosques in New Zealand.

“The same media companies who have lambasted social media platforms for not acting fast enough to remove extremist content are simultaneously publishing uncensored Daesh [Islamic State] propaganda on their websites, or make the rambling ‘manifestos’ of crazed killers available for download,” Basu said in an open letter to the media on how to report terrorism.

He appeared to be singling out Mail Online, which uploaded the New Zealand’s terrorist’s 74-page “manifesto” to its website and made the document, which included an explanation of his far-right ideology, available for users to download from one of the world’s biggest news outlets.


Always worth recalling that radicalisation and polarisation have existed since long before online social networks.
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Doomed Boeing jets lacked two safety features that company sold only as extras • The New York Times

Hiroko Tabuchi and David Gelles:


The jet’s software system takes readings from one of two vanelike devices called angle of attack sensors that determine how much the plane’s nose is pointing up or down relative to oncoming air. When MCAS detects that the plane is pointing up at a dangerous angle, it can automatically push down the nose of the plane in an effort to prevent the plane from stalling.

Debris from Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, which crashed on March 10. The angle of attack features could have alerted the pilots if a new software system was malfunctioning.

Boeing’s optional safety features, in part, could have helped the pilots detect any erroneous readings. One of the optional upgrades, the angle of attack indicator, displays the readings of the two sensors. The other, called a disagree light, is activated if those sensors are at odds with one another.

Boeing will soon update the MCAS software, and will also make the disagree light standard on all new 737 Max planes, according to a person familiar with the changes, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they have not been made public. Boeing started moving on the software fix and the equipment change before the crash in the Ethiopia.

The angle of attack indicator will remain an option that airlines can buy. Neither feature was mandated by the Federal Aviation Administration. All 737 Max jets have been grounded.

“They’re critical, and cost almost nothing for the airlines to install,” said Bjorn Fehrm, an analyst at the aviation consultancy Leeham. “Boeing charges for them because it can. But they’re vital for safety.”


Now one has to think about all the other “optional” safety features that airlines aren’t deploying because of the cost. How do you find that out?
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After New Zealand shooting, founder of 8chan expresses regrets • WSJ

Robert McMillan:


[Fredrick] Brennan, a former Brooklynite who cut ties with the site in December, said he believed 8chan’s administrators were too slow to remove the post last week from Christchurch, New Zealand, shooter Brenton Tarrant and posts on the site’s message boards that incite violence. Their reluctance to do so, along with the proliferation of posts on 8chan praising Mr. Tarrant’s actions, have persuaded Mr. Brennan that the toxic, white-supremacist culture that lives on parts of the site could someday be linked to another mass shooting.

“It was very difficult in the days that followed to know that I had created that site,” he said in an interview from the Philippines, where he has lived since 2014. He added: “It wouldn’t surprise me if this happens again.”

Mr. Brennan for years tended to one of the internet’s darkest corners, moderating the site as criticism mounted for its persistently racist content and tolerance for user behavior that was long ago banned by mainstream platforms. The site has also been criticized for users posting child pornography and coordinating aggressive harassment campaigns against critics. Mr. Brennan was an administrator on the site until 2016 and worked for the owners of 8chan until December.

While 8chan is available on the open internet, it is often blocked by corporate firewalls and is no longer indexed by Google’s search engine.

Mr. Brennan, 25 years old, expressed regret that the site had consumed so much of his life. “I didn’t spend enough time making friends in real life,” he said. High-school events and classes in upstate New York didn’t matter to him at all. What mattered was the community of like-minded provocateurs, trolls, libertarians and conservative thinkers he discovered online as a boy and that formed his identity as a young man.

“I just feel like I wasted too much time on this stuff,” he said.


Famous. Last. Words.
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A robot leg learned to walk by itself without programming, in a scarily short time • Science Alert

Carly Cassella:


The team claims to have created the first AI-controlled robotic limb that can learn how to walk without being explicitly programmed to do so.

The algorithm they used is inspired by real-life biology. Just like animals that can walk soon after birth, this robot can figure out how to use its animal-like tendons after only five minutes of unstructured play.

“The ability for a species to learn and adapt their movements as their bodies and environments change has been a powerful driver of evolution from the start,” explains co-author Brian Cohn, a computer scientist at USC (University of Southern California).

“Our work constitutes a step towards empowering robots to learn and adapt from each experience, just as animals do.”

Today, most robots take months or years before they are ready to interact with the rest of the world. But with this new algorithm, the team has figured out how to make robots that can learn by simply doing. This is known in robotics as “motor babbling” because it closely mimics how babies learn to speak through trial and error.

“During the babbling phase, the system will send random commands to motors and sense the joint angles,” co-author Ali Marjaninejad an engineer at USC, told PC Mag.

“Then, it will train the three-layer neural network to guess what commands will produce a given movement. We then start performing the task and reinforce good behavior.”


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Cambridge spin-out starts producing graphene at commercial scale • University of Cambridge


Graphene’s remarkable properties – stronger than steel, more conductive than copper, highly flexible and transparent – make it ideal for a range of applications. However, its widespread commercial application in electronic devices has been held back by the difficulties associated with producing it at high quality and at high volume. The conventional way of making large-area graphene involves using copper as a catalyst which contaminates the graphene, making it unsuitable for electronic applications.

Professor Sir Colin Humphreys from the Centre for Gallium Nitride in Cambridge’s Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, along with his former postdoctoral researchers Dr Simon Thomas and Dr Ivor Guiney, developed a new way to make large-area graphene in 2015.

Using their method, the researchers were able form high-quality graphene wafers up to eight inches in diameter, beating not only other university research groups worldwide, but also companies like IBM, Intel and Samsung.

The three researchers spun out Paragraf in early 2018. Thomas is currently the company’s CEO and Guiney is its Chief Technology Officer, while Humphreys, who has recently moved to Queen Mary University of London, serves as Chair.

Paragraf has received £2.9m in funding to support the development of its first commercial products and moved into premises in February 2018.


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Your AirPods probably have terrible battery life • The Atlantic

Alana Semuels:


Of the 3.4m tons of electronic waste generated in America in 2012—an 80% increase from 2000—just 29% was recycled. “Imagine that every single thing in the world has the same life span as a battery, and wore out after 12 to 18 months,” [iFixit founder Kyle] Wiens told me. “It would be catastrophic for consumers and even worse for the planet.”

But, of course, companies design for performance and sales, not life span. They make money when they sell more units, and they’re not financially responsible for disposing of products when consumers are finished using them. Nadim Maluf, the founder of the battery consultancy Qnovo, told me that a decade ago, he went to big tech companies telling them he could help them double the longevity of their products, by extending the battery life of the lithium-ion batteries they were beginning to use. “No one really cared,” he told me. “Extending product life wasn’t consistent with growth on the financial side.”

Apple officials declined to speak on the record for this story. But in 2017, the company announced that it was working toward a closed-loop supply chain, in which 100% of its materials will be recycled or renewed. Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives, has said the company wants to keep products in use as long as possible. Apple also encourages consumers to trade in their devices to be recycled, for a small credit: Someone trading in an iPhone 5, for instance, could get $40 off the $999 price of an iPhone XS.


The “not financially responsible for disposing of products when consumers are finished using them” feels like an externality that should be addressed. But would that involve tracking every device?
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Time to bring Google Shopping case to a close

Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (ALDE, ES) is a member of the European parliament’s Economic and Monetary Affairs committee:


More than 18 months ago Google’s abuse of its power in online shopping resulted in a €2.42bn fine from the EU. By promoting its own shopping comparison service at the top of its own search results, Google had crossed the line between being dominant and breaking the law.

Commissioner Vestager told Google it had 90 days to change its ways or face further penalties. “What Google has done is illegal under EU antitrust rules,” she told the world. “It has denied other companies the chance to compete on their merits and to innovate, and most importantly it has denied European consumers the benefits of competition, genuine choice and innovation.”

Over 500 days later it is hard to see that Google has done enough to avoid further action.

According to the few companies that have, so far, survived Google’s abuse of dominance, the market has further deteriorated. The “point of no return” is plainly visible for what is left of Europe’s once prosperous and vibrant shopping comparison industry…

…I’ve already gone on the record to say that technical solutions can stop Google’s abuse without disrupting online shoppers or merchants. A rotation mechanism on the shopping search results page itself could allow the appearance of Google and its competitors. Google would be unable to exploit its search algorithms while users would get greater choice and relevant results.

Indeed, this approach would suit today’s mobile devices, perhaps rebooting the consumer-focused innovation in shopping comparison that died away once Google began to dominate the sector.

If the Commission feels the need, then other more radical options are still on the table. There are, for example, voices calling for the “unbundling” of Google’s various services, breaking up a tech giant that has problems not just in shopping but also in areas such as Android and AdSense.


Interesting idea about the rotation mechanism, but who would choose who gets to be in it? I still prefer a system where you do well in organic search. It’s honest and nobody adjudicates.
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The new iPad Mini • Daring Fireball

John Gruber reviewing the new 7.9in device, which hadn’t been updated since 2015:


I’ll refer back to my review of the original iPad Mini from 2012:


Typing is interesting. In portrait, I actually find it easier to type on the Mini than a full-size iPad. All thumbs, with less distance to travel between keys, it feels more like typing on an iPhone. In landscape, though, typing is decidedly worse. The keyboard in landscape is only a tad wider than a full-size iPad keyboard in portrait. That’s too small to use all eight of my fingers, so I wind up using a four-finger hunt-and-peck style with my index and middle fingers.


This is even more pronounced now, at least between iPad Mini and iPad Pro (as opposed to iPad Mini and iPad Air) because iPad Pro — inexplicably, as I said — does not support split keyboards, even though they’re bigger devices. I honestly don’t know how anyone is supposed to type on an iPad Pro while holding it in their hands. It’s crazy.

Basically, the iPad Mini knows exactly what it is and the iPad Pros do not — the iPad Pros are lost between the iOS world of conceptual simplicity and the complex world of competing with desktop OSes.

The iPad Mini puts the “pad” in iPad. If you want a device that is bigger than a phone, but smaller and more holdable than a laptop-screen-sized thing for reading and just walking around with, the iPad Mini is it.


Definitely true you can’t type on a full-size iPad while standing up. (Dictate instead?) The iPad mini is a really beloved device for a lot of people: they find it just the right size, not too bulky, yet not undersized. The aspect ratio means you get a lot of screen.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:1: Yes, “link to this extract” is back! This time with MD5 goodness of the URL to create a unique link, so it *should* work wherever you are. Please note: might be a flop and removed next week.

2: the author of “How AI is changing science” is Dan Falk; Rachel Suggs drew the illustration.

Start Up No.1,028: a US DNA database by stealth?, Uber’s Aussie spyware, AI to draw for you, Nunes v cow, and more

Meet the new instrument that can detect Parkinson’s Disease decades before symptoms appear. CC-licensed photo by Bradley Gordon 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. Flexible, extensible. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Consumer genetic testing is creating a de facto national DNA database • Slate

Natalie Ram:


Imagine the federal government enacted a law requiring all US residents to provide law enforcement with their DNA profile so police could solve more crimes. Would you be OK with such a system?

Imagine instead that the federal government established a database for which people could volunteer genetic profiles—but that the decision about whether to volunteer your DNA belonged not to you, but to your third cousin. Would you be OK with that?

Whether you like it or not, the United States has effectively already adopted this second system. Since April 2018, law enforcement investigations stemming from DNA searches in consumer genetics databases have led to nearly three dozen arrests. In every case, those ultimately arrested did not actually upload their own genetic profiles to any database. Rather, they were identified through partial matches between crime scene DNA samples and the genetic profiles of often-distant relatives shared on consumer platforms like GEDmatch or FamilyTreeDNA. By one estimate, more than 60% of Americans of European descent are already identifiable through the DNA of a third cousin or closer on one of these platforms, and nearly all such Americans may be findable soon. Meanwhile, Parabon Nanolabs, the leading private company selling genetic genealogy services to law enforcement, claims that it can identify criminal suspects out to ninth-degree relatives (e.g., fourth cousins)—widening the genetic web of indirect database inclusion still further.


It’s a DNA database by accident, rather as the tech companies created mass government surveillance by accident – their systems became so pervasive and comprehensive that they could then be exploited by the PRISM system, which ran on secret FISA court rulings.

Also, it’s really unlikely that it will go away. Law enforcement will lobby endlessly to get loopholes to use private data. (Thanks Nic for the link.)

Uber used secret spyware to try to crush Australian start-up GoCatch • ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Sean Nicholls, Peter Cronau and Mary Fallon:


GoCatch was a major competitor to Uber when the US company launched in Australia in 2012. At the time, both companies were offering a new way to book taxis and hire cars using a smartphone app.

Surfcam was developed in Uber Australia’s head office in Sydney in 2015.

A former senior Uber employee has told Four Corners that the idea behind the use of the Surfcam spyware was to starve GoCatch of drivers.

“Surfcam when used in Australia was able to put fledgling Australian competitors onto the ropes,” the former employee with direct knowledge of the program said on the condition of anonymity.

“Surfcam allowed Uber Australia to see in real time all of the competitor cars online and to scrape data such as the driver’s name, car registration, and so on”.

It allowed Uber to directly approach the GoCatch drivers and lure them to work for Uber.

“GoCatch would lose customers due to poaching of its drivers draining their supply. With fewer and fewer drivers, GoCatch would eventually fold,” the former Uber employee said.


Uber really had a particular charm in those days. Though the company insisted that it was a “rogue employee” and that when they found out, he was told to stop. Choose your own adventure on whether you believe them.

London schoolchildren to monitor air quality with backpacks • UKAuthority


Children from five London primary schools will carry monitors in their backpacks for a week as part of research into the city’s air quality.

The 1kg monitors, designed to fit into lightweight backpacks with room for school equipment, measure PM2.5 and PM10 particulates and nitrogen dioxide levels. 250 children from schools in Southwark, Richmond, Greenwich, Haringey and Hammersmith and Fulham will take part.

The sensors have been developed by manufacturer Dyson with King’s College London, whose scientists will analyse the results to see where and when children are most exposed to pollution and make recommendations on reducing this.

The project was launched by London mayor Sadiq Khan at Haimo primary school in Greenwich, one of the five schools involved, on 19 March. The school already provides pupils with walking route maps and the Royal Borough of Greenwich closes the road outside to traffic at the start and end of the day, leading to 35% fewer parents driving children to school.


The difference with these is that they’re monitoring the air the children are breathing – unlike monitors that sit on poles well above the ground.

A ‘super smeller’ sniffed Parkinson’s Disease before symptoms even appeared • Inverse

Sarah Sloat:


Joy Milne has an incredible sense of smell, which she credits to her synaesthesia. But in late 1986, her fantastic nose picked up on something less than lovely: An earthy, musky scent that suddenly radiated from her husband. When her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1994, Milne had an aha moment and approached researchers at the University of Manchester.

“Joy motivated us,” explains Perdita Barran, Ph.D., one of the researchers, to Inverse. “She came to my collaborator Tilo Kunath and directly asked him why he or anyone wasn’t working on the fact that people with Parkinson’s disease have a distinct smell.”

That useful conversation led to a study, in 2017, that confirmed the observation was worth pursuing. The latest study on the smell of Parkinson’s definitively ties scent to the neurodegenerative disorder. On Wednesday, Barran, a professor of mass spectrometry, and her team reported in ACS Central Science that they had identified the specific compounds that make up the odor of the disease.

They hope that, in the future, scent can be used as a diagnostic tool. While Parkinson’s disease is a widely studied condition that affects more than 10 million people worldwide, there are currently no reliable tests to diagnose it.


This is just the most amazing story you’ll read all week. The paper itself is open access. Could lead to earlier diagnosis, and because of that treatment, and because of that better lives.

Nvidia’s latest AI software turns rough doodles into realistic landscapes • The Verge

JAmes Vincent:


The software generates AI landscapes instantly, and it’s surprisingly intuitive. For example, when a user draws a tree and then a pool of water underneath it, the model adds the tree’s reflection to the pool.

Demos like this are very entertaining, but they don’t do a good job of highlighting the limitations of these systems. The underlying technology can’t just paint in any texture you can think of, and Nvidia has chosen to show off imagery it handles particularly well.

For example, generating fake grass and water is relatively easy for GANs [generative adversarial networks, a form of neural network] because the visual patterns involved are unstructured. Generating pictures of buildings and furniture, by comparison, is much trickier, and the results are much less realistic. That’s because these objects have a logic and structure to them that humans are sensitive to. GANs can overcome this sort of challenge, as we’ve seen with AI-generated faces, but it takes a lot of extra effort.

Nvidia didn’t say if it has any plans to turn the software into an actual product, but it suggests that tools like this could help “everyone from architects and urban planners to landscape designers and game developers” in the future.


Goats, cows and Devin Nunes’ mom: how a Republican’s Twitter lawsuit backfired • The Guardian

Vivian Ho, on Tuesday:


The US congressman Devin Nunes sent the Twitterverse spiraling into hilarity late on Monday with his lawsuit listing the purported crimes of Twitter users “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow”.

In the lawsuit against Twitter and a handful of users, the California Republican claims to be the victim of vicious internet trolls, as well as the victim of selective censorship by the social media company. He is alleging that by “shadow-banning” his account, Twitter allowed for the selective amplification of “defamers” such as “Devin Nunes’ Mom” and “Devin Nunes’ Cow”.

(Shadow-banning, a term used for when certain users are not visible in automatic search results, has repeatedly been debunked as an effort to silence conservatives. Twitter has changed the way it algorithmically ranks users, based on their behavior, but the company has maintained that it is content-neutral.)

But in filing the lawsuit, Nunes ultimately fell victim to the Streisand effect: when an attempt to censor something ends up bringing more attention to it.

In suing these Twitter users, Nunes listed some of their tweets, thus ensuring thousands, if not millions, more people saw what the lawsuit characterized as “defamation”. By the time Nunes filed the lawsuit, Twitter had already suspended Devin Nunes’ Mom. Devin Nunes’ Cow had more than 1,200 followers.


*hand to earpiece* and this just in: @devincow now has more Twitter followers than Nunes himself. A richly deserved pisstaking on an idiot who helped debase the Republicans during Trump’s first two years in office by acting as a bag-carrier of nonsense between White House, Congress and Fox News.

The US government is using the most vulnerable people to test facial recognition software • Slate

Os Keyes, Nikki Stevens, and Jacqueline Wernimont:


If you thought IBM using “quietly scraped” Flickr images to train facial recognition systems was bad, it gets worse. Our research, which will be reviewed for publication this summer, indicates that the U.S. government, researchers, and corporations have used images of immigrants, abused children, and dead people to test their facial recognition systems, all without consent. The very group the U.S. government has tasked with regulating the facial recognition industry is perhaps the worst offender when it comes to using images sourced without the knowledge of the people in the photographs.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, maintains the Facial Recognition Verification Testing program, the gold standard test for facial recognition technology. This program helps software companies, researchers, and designers evaluate the accuracy of their facial recognition programs by running their software through a series of challenges against large groups of images (data sets) that contain faces from various angles and in various lighting conditions…

…Through a mix of publicly released documents and materials obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, we’ve found that the Facial Recognition Verification Testing program depends on images of children who have been exploited for child pornography; US visa applicants, especially those from Mexico; and people who have been arrested and are now deceased. Additional images are drawn from the Department of Homeland Security documentation of travellers boarding aircraft in the US and individuals booked on suspicion of criminal activity.


We’re discovering that these systems are built on the systems equivalent of native burial grounds.

Is there a limit to the number of devices I can link to my account? • Dropbox Help


Basic users have a three device limit as of March 2019. [Emphasis added – CA]

Plus and Professional users can link more than three devices.

Business users can link unlimited devices, but Advanced and Enterprise Dropbox Business admins can limit the number of devices that their teams can link.

If you’ve reached your device limit, you can change which three devices are linked to your account. To do so, unlink devices you don’t want on your account (down to less than three), and then link the devices that you do want. Learn how to link and unlink devices. 

If you’re a Basic user and you linked more than three devices prior to March 2019, all of your previously linked devices will remain linked, but you can’t link additional devices.

To get unlimited linked devices, upgrade your Dropbox account.


So now we find out how Dropbox is going to start nudging more people towards paying for it. As a business, it’s edging towards formal profitability, and added more than a million users (12.7m by end 2018, up from 11m at end 2017) in a year. Only takes a few to tip over into paying and it’s happy.

Guardian Mobile Fireweall aim to block the apps that grab your data • Fast Company

Glenn Fleishman:


A New York Times report in December focused on location data being shared with third-party organizations and tied to specific users; in February, a Wall Street Journal investigation reported that app makers were sharing events as intimate as ovulation cycles and weight with Facebook. But no matter how alarmed you are by such scenarios, there hasn’t been much you could do. Mobile operating systems don’t let you monitor your network connection and block specific bits of data from leaving your phone.

That led Strafach and his colleagues at Sudo Security Group aim to take practical action. “We are aware of almost every active tracker that is in the App Store,” he says. Building on years of research, Sudo is putting the finishing touches on an iPhone app called Guardian Mobile Firewall, a product that combines a virtual private network (VPN) connection with a sophisticated custom firewall managed by Sudo.

It looks like Guardian will be the first commercial entry into a fresh category of apps and services that look not only just for malicious behavior, but also what analysis shows could be data about you leaving your phone without your explicit permission. It will identify and variably block all kinds of leakage, based on Sudo’s unique analysis of App Store apps.

Sudo is taking preorders for the app in the Apple Store and plans a full launch no later than June. It will debut on iOS, and required some lengthy conversations with Apple’s app reviewers as Sudo laid out precisely what part of its filtering happens in the app (none of it) and what happens at its cloud-based firewall (everything). The price will be in the range of a high-end, unlimited VPN—about $8 or $9 a month. Sudo plans an expanded beta program in April, followed by a production release that will be automatically delivered to preorder customers.


You’d need to be pretty worried about data grabs to pay that amount, wouldn’t you? That’s nearly a music subscription. Is your data *that* valuable? Wouldn’t an adblocker be a lot cheaper?

Antitrust: Commission fines Google €1.49bn for abusive practices in online advertising • European Commission



Google is an intermediary, like an advertising broker, between advertisers and website owners that want to profit from the space around their search results pages. Therefore, AdSense for Search works as an online search advertising intermediation platform.

Google was by far the strongest player in online search advertising intermediation in the European Economic Area (EEA), with a market share above 70% from 2006 to 2016. In 2016 Google also held market shares generally above 90% in the national markets for general search and above 75% in most of the national markets for online search advertising, where it is present with its flagship product, the Google search engine, which provides search results to consumers.

It is not possible for competitors in online search advertising such as Microsoft and Yahoo to sell advertising space in Google’s own search engine results pages. Therefore, third-party websites represent an important entry point for these other suppliers of online search advertising intermediation services to grow their business and try to compete with Google.

Google’s provision of online search advertising intermediation services to the most commercially important publishers took place via agreements that were individually negotiated. The Commission has reviewed hundreds of such agreements in the course of its investigation and found that:

• Starting in 2006, Google included exclusivity clauses in its contracts. This meant that publishers were prohibited from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results pages. The decision concerns publishers whose agreements with Google required such exclusivity for all their websites.
• As of March 2009, Google gradually began replacing the exclusivity clauses with so-called “Premium Placement” clauses. These required publishers to reserve the most profitable space on their search results pages for Google’s adverts and request a minimum number of Google adverts. As a result, Google’s competitorswere prevented from placing their search adverts in the most visible and clicked on parts of the websites’ search results pages.
• As of March 2009, Google also included clauses requiring publishers to seek written approval from Google before making changes to the way in which any rival adverts were displayed. This meant that Google could control how attractive, and therefore clicked on, competing search adverts could be.


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: perhaps you’ve noticed that the “link to this extract” links have gone? They created confusion, only worked in the blogpost, and I didn’t see them being used in that form. So I’ve removed them. Sorry, Richard.

Start Up No.1,027: AI’s influence on science, how b*tcoin screwed the new Nazis, Google aims for gamers, Vestager on the data companies, and more

“Hi there! Here for your jobs. Or not.” CC-licensed photo by Josh Beam on Flickr.

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

Are robots competing for your job? • The New Yorker

Jill Lepore is in caustic form, reviewing a number of books:


The old robots were blue-collar workers, burly and clunky, the machines that rusted the Rust Belt. But, according to the economist Richard Baldwin, in “The Globotics Upheaval: Globalization, Robotics, and the Future of Work” (Oxford), the new ones are “white-collar robots,” knowledge workers and quinoa-and-oat-milk globalists, the machines that will bankrupt Brooklyn. Mainly, they’re algorithms. Except when they’re immigrants. Baldwin calls that kind “remote intelligence,” or R.I.: they’re not exactly robots but, somehow, they fall into the same category. They’re people from other countries who can steal your job without ever really crossing the border: they just hop over, by way of the Internet and apps like Upwork, undocumented, invisible, ethereal.

Between artificial intelligence and remote intelligence, Baldwin warns, “this international talent tidal wave is coming straight for the good, stable jobs that have been the foundation of middle-class prosperity in the US and Europe, and other high-wage economies.” Change your Wi-Fi password. Clear your browser history. Ask H.R. about early retirement. The globots are coming.

How can you know if you’re about to get replaced by an invading algorithm or an augmented immigrant? “If your job can be easily explained, it can be automated,” Anders Sandberg, of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute, tells Oppenheimer. “If it can’t, it won’t.” (Rotten luck for people whose job description is “Predict the future.”) Baldwin offers three-part advice: (1) avoid competing with A.I. and R.I.; (2) build skills in things that only humans can do, in person; and (3) “realize that humanity is an edge not a handicap.” What all this means is hard to say, especially if you’ve never before considered being human to be a handicap.


It’s not a short piece, but it is very fine.
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How artificial intelligence is changing science • Quanta Magazine

Rachel Suggs Dan Falk:


In a paper published in December in Astronomy & Astrophysics, Schawinski and his ETH Zurich colleagues Dennis Turp and Ce Zhang used generative modeling to investigate the physical changes that galaxies undergo as they evolve. (The software they used treats the latent space somewhat differently from the way a generative adversarial network [GAN] treats it, so it is not technically a GAN, though similar.) Their model created artificial data sets as a way of testing hypotheses about physical processes. They asked, for instance, how the “quenching” of star formation — a sharp reduction in formation rates — is related to the increasing density of a galaxy’s environment.

For [Galaxy Zoo creator Kevin] Schawinski, the key question is how much information about stellar and galactic processes could be teased out of the data alone. “Let’s erase everything we know about astrophysics,” he said. “To what degree could we rediscover that knowledge, just using the data itself?”

First, the galaxy images were reduced to their latent space; then, Schawinski could tweak one element of that space in a way that corresponded to a particular change in the galaxy’s environment — the density of its surroundings, for example. Then he could re-generate the galaxy and see what differences turned up. “So now I have a hypothesis-generation machine,” he explained. “I can take a whole bunch of galaxies that are originally in a low-density environment and make them look like they’re in a high-density environment, by this process.”  Schawinski, Turp and Zhang saw that, as galaxies go from low- to high-density environments, they become redder in color, and their stars become more centrally concentrated. This matches existing observations about galaxies, Schawinski said. The question is why this is so.

The next step, Schawinski says, has not yet been automated: “I have to come in as a human, and say, ‘OK, what kind of physics could explain this effect?’”


If you’d forgotten Galaxy Zoo, it was a crowdsourcing method of cataloguing galaxies, launched 12 years ago. Now, the article says, you’d get it done by an AI system in an afternoon.
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Neo-Nazis bet big on bitcoin (and lost) • Foreign Policy

David Gerard:


Bitcoin is pseudonymous, not anonymous, and carries a public ledger of all transactions—so there are multiple sites that track payments to known bitcoin addresses for far-right and so-called alt-lite figures. The “Neonazi BTC Tracker” on Twitter (@neonaziwallets), run by John Bambenek of the computer security service ThreatSTOP, documents the flow of cryptocurrency funds within the white nationalist subculture. Bambenek has also worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center on monitoring these groups.

“Bitcoin provides these neo-Nazi terror groups—and they are terror groups—the ability to raise and spend money in a way that’s hard to disrupt,” Bambenek told Foreign Policy. “But it also provides an intelligence analyst like me unfettered ability to surveil them, because they surrender all their privacy rights by using it—because bitcoin’s ledger is public.”

Cashing out your bitcoins can be tricky. There are only a few cryptocurrency exchanges that one can get U.S. dollars out of with any trust or reliability, and banks are reluctant to touch money from cryptos. “Bitcoin only means something if you can turn it into actual money or stuff,” Bambenek said. “That can only happen in a few hundred places—and many of those places have been immensely helpful [to the anti-Nazi cause].”

…It helps Bambenek’s work that neo-Nazis lack the self-restraint not to publicly reveal themselves—for example, one recent transaction sent 0.001488 bitcoins (about $5.93 at the time) to the Daily Stormer. “1488” is a number that is used as a signal between neo-Nazis—“14” is for the white supremacist slogan known as “the fourteen words” (“We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”), and “88” is for “Heil Hitler.”

“These guys can’t help but identify themselves,” Bambenek said. “It surprises me they are such an odd combination of arrogance and incompetence.”


The arrogance comes with the territory; the incompetence they make themselves.
link to this extract

MPs warn consumers not to use ticket resale site Viagogo • Financial Times

Nic Fildes:


British MPs have warned consumers not to buy or sell tickets to musical and sporting events through the resale site Viagogo, which they have accused of “flouting consumer law”.

The warning issued by the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, was issued as part of a wider report into the health of Britain’s live music sector. It raised concerns about the financial viability of smaller live music venues and discrimination against grime and hip-hop artists.

Viagogo, which is based in Switzerland, is one of a number of secondary ticketing platforms that allow consumers to buy tickets to sold-out shows from resellers. The UK Competition and Markets Authority conducted a lengthy investigation into the resale market after numerous concerns of consumer harm and that industrial scale touting online was artificially inflating the cost of tickets on resale platforms.

The CMA expressed “serious” concerns in January that Viagogo, unlike its rivals, had not complied with a court order to improve its behaviour. It said in March it would launch legal proceedings against the company.

MPs said that Viagogo had not proved to be a “trustworthy operator” and had caused distress to music fans.


Viagogo is a byword for disappointment among a certain class of gig goers. So many concerts now restrict tickets to the individual buyer, with ID; Viagogo likes to think that’s an irrelevance. People buy resold tickets from its site, turn up at the gig… and that’s an expensive not-night-out.
link to this extract

Ride-hailing, fracking, capital hunger, and future profits • Crunchbase

Alex Wilhelm:


at some point in the future Lyft expects its “Adjusted EBITDA Margin” to reach 20%. That’s pretty slack, and the news gets even worse. Here’s more from [Bloomberg columnist Shira] Ovide:


I had to *really* squint to read the footnotes. “Adjusted” Ebitda excludes: depreciation and amortization, stock pay, charges to insurance reserves, acquisition related costs, income taxes and interest. Ok!


In short, Lyft will, at some point in the future yet to be determined, generate 20% profit margins on its revenue, provided that we exclude an incredible slurry of material, GAAP costs from the calculations. The only way I can read the chart’s figures and its explainer text is that Lyft expects to never make money, and it wants you to know it.

A 20% operating margin would be mildly ok. It’s certainly not software-like performance, but Lyft could be big, and thus the profit material. But if your fake profit metric that strips out real costs only gets you to a 20% clear at some point, you aren’t going to have much profit at all, measured using normal metrics.

And this company wants $2bn more? After it has already raised $4.9bn?

A huge industry that can raise untold billions, whose profits are always out in the future? Ride-hailing isn’t the only game around when it comes to those terms. There’s also fracking.


Fracking’s even worse, it turns out.
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Home Office uses debit cards to spy on asylum seekers • The Times

Marc Horne:


Individuals seeking asylum in Britain are issued with prepaid Aspen debit cards, allowing them to spend £35 a week on food, clothes and toiletries.

It has been discovered that the microchipped cards are being used to monitor people’s movements and are revoked if they leave their “authorised city”, the place where they are being given temporary housing. More than 27,000 cards have been issued but fewer than 200 people have been penalised for breaching the condition.

The Home Office confirmed that the cards were being used to track users and a spokesman said: “We are able to access and examine data from the cards on transaction value, point of sale location, date of transaction, retail outlet and ATM location.”

They confirmed that 186 people had their support stopped last year “as a result of a referral regarding the Aspen card usage”…

Stuart McDonald, the SNP [Scottish National Party] spokesman on asylum and immigration, said that the policy was a grossly invasive failure. “The limited information the Home Office has finally been prepared to make public shows that this mass surveillance has found a ‘breach in conditions’ in less than 1% of cases,” he said. “Tens of thousands of people have been monitored in a grossly invasive way to achieve virtually nothing.


It’s only “grossly invasive” if they watch precisely what people are doing all the time, yes? This seems to pick up exceptions. Unless there are people looking at the locations of the transactions. But that seems like overkill, especially given the tiny number of breaches.
link to this extract

Google Stadia: company makes a play for gamers with new streaming service • The Guardian

Keza MacDonald:


Google announced its entry into the video game market with Google Stadia, a service that will allow players to stream video games to any screen – phone, tablet, TV or computer.

Google announced Stadia at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. The cloud-powered service will allow users to log in from any screen using the Chrome browser, a Chromecast device or a Google Pixel phone or tablet and play the same games across all of them, with all the computational heavy-lifting done by Google’s servers instead of a games console. It means that players won’t have to purchase a box that sits under the TV in order to play, theoretically liberating video games from hardware altogether.

Google did not announce pricing, but it is likely that the service will be subscription-based. The service is expected to launch later in 2019 in the US, Canada, the UK and “most of Europe”…

…Previous game streaming offerings such as 2010’s OnLive have failed because of latency problems and “lag” – it doesn’t matter much if a TV show or film streams on a slight delay, but video games demand instant responsiveness when you press a button, and even a small delay can make them unpleasant to play. Google’s immense server infrastructure will mitigate that, the company says, allowing for smooth gaming at the standard that players expect from a console, in 4k resolution and at 60 frames a second.


All about the timing.
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European commissioner for competition Margethe Vestager interviewed on Kara Swisher podcast • Recode

Vestager, answering Swisher about the effect of the big tech companies on society:


we have seen interference in national elections, referendas. We have seen a lot of data breaches. We have seen a lot of an economy that is shifting quite a lot into a use of data that is unprecedented. We are in the middle of a revolution, a technological industrial revolution. And I think as societies we have quite a lot of catching up to do to get in control.

Just as we had back in the days where we had sort of the Industrial Revolution of chemistry, when pesticides and all of that became, you know, the big guy in town, people thought that you could do amazing things. Just spraying everything, adding everything to products. It took some time before we realized that we have to get in control because otherwise it would be damaging for our ability to reproduce, for clean drinking water, all of that.

Now [we are] to the very last degree in control of that, and I think we want to do the same thing. In my own home country, we had a lot of discussions about chemicals in feeding bottles. Huge discussions. If you’d say, “I’ve never ever have my baby have a feeding bottle,” but you have no second thoughts of giving them an iPad.


Plenty to chew on in the full interview. Vestager will leave office in November; be interesting to see if her replacement has the same sort of feel for trustbusting, or will be relatively ineffectual on this as her predecessor, Joaquin Almunia, was.
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Facebook axes age, gender and other targeting for some sensitive ads • WSJ

Nat Ives:


Facebook is removing age, gender and ZIP Code targeting for housing, employment and credit-related ads as part of a settlement with advocacy groups and other plaintiffs.

The new actions—and just under $5m in payments—settle five discrimination lawsuits filed by the National Fair Housing Alliance, the Communications Workers of America and others, the company said.

“There is a long history of discrimination in the areas of housing, employment, and credit, and this harmful behavior should not happen through Facebook ads,” Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a blog post that will be published on Tuesday afternoon, according to a spokesman.

Facebook has faced pressure on targeting around such ads for years, sparked by a 2016 report from investigative-news site ProPublica, which said it had been able to buy ads targeted to house hunters that excluded certain groups based on ethnicity. While Facebook didn’t allow targeting specifically by race, it lets advertisers seek consumers by criteria it calls “ethnic affinity.”

Soon after that report, Facebook said it would no longer let marketers target housing, employment and credit-related ads by ethnic affinity.


Sure, that harmful behaviour shouldn’t happen, through Facebook ads or other. But ProPublica pointed this out more than two years ago. It’s frustrating that everyone else has to point out to Facebook how it enables bad actors in so many ways.
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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.

Start Up No.1,026: Apple’s Pencil puzzle, your teeth v your jaw, US recycling sputters, HTC’s high VR hopes, and more

MySpace lost 12 years of music in a “server migration project”. CC-licensed photo by egg (Hong, Yun Seon) on Flickr

»You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email (arriving at about 0700GMT each weekday). You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.«

A selection of 13 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Apple’s new iPads cling to old Apple Pencil • The Verge

Vlad Savov:


When a company, in this case, Apple, replaces one simply named product like the Apple Pencil with an identically titled successor, you’d usually be forgiven for assuming that the old product is about to be discontinued. Otherwise, advertising things like “Apple Pencil support” would become super confusing for people who are shopping for a new iPad. You’d think so, but Apple apparently has no such qualms. Today, it introduced an updated iPad mini and a new iPad Air. Both of them arrived six months after the launch of the second-generation Apple Pencil, and both offer compatibility only with the first-generation Apple Pencil.

The trouble with Apple’s Pencils is that they’re not cross-compatible. The first model works with one set of iPads, which has today been freshly expanded, while the second variant is only compatible with the latest iPad Pros. You can’t use the older stylus on the 2018 iPad Pros, and you can’t use the newer stylus on any other iPad. Let me say that again using Apple’s language: the iPads that launched today support Apple Pencil but not Apple Pencil.

Brevity may be the soul of wit, but this strikes me as an example of product naming abridged beyond the point of usefulness.


What. What. What?!
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As costs skyrocket, more US cities stop recycling • NY Times

Michael Corkery:


Recycling, for decades an almost reflexive effort by American households and businesses to reduce waste and help the environment, is collapsing in many parts of the country.

Philadelphia is now burning about half of its 1.5 million residents’ recycling material in an incinerator that converts waste to energy. In Memphis, the international airport still has recycling bins around the terminals, but every collected can, bottle and newspaper is sent to a landfill. And last month, officials in the central Florida city of Deltona faced the reality that, despite their best efforts to recycle, their curbside program was not working and suspended it.

Those are just three of the hundreds of towns and cities across the country that have canceled recycling programs, limited the types of material they accepted or agreed to huge price increases.

“We are in a crisis moment in the recycling movement right now,” said Fiona Ma, the treasurer of California, where recycling costs have increased in some cities.

Prompting this nationwide reckoning is China, which until January 2018 had been a big buyer of recyclable material collected in the United States. That stopped when Chinese officials determined that too much trash was mixed in with recyclable materials like cardboard and certain plastics. After that, Thailand and India started to accept more imported scrap, but even they are imposing new restrictions.

The turmoil in the global scrap markets began affecting American communities last year, and the problems have only deepened.


link to this extract

New Zealand video: after shooting, YouTube struggled to shut down humans who outsmarted its systems • The Washington Post



When the original video was uploaded Thursday evening, [YouTube chief product officer Neal] Mohan said the company’s breaking news shelf kicked in, as did the developing news cards, which ran as banners for all YouTube users to see. Basic searches directed viewers to authoritative sources, and the autocomplete feature was not suggesting inappropriate words, as it had during other incidents.

Engineers also immediately “hashed” the video, meaning that artificial intelligence software would be able to recognize uploads of carbon copies, along with some permutations of it, and could delete them automatically. Hashing techniques are widely used to prevent abuses of movie copyrights and to stop the re-uploading of identical videos of child pornography or those featuring terrorist recruitment.

But in this case, the hashing system was no match for the tens of thousands of permutations of video being uploaded about the shooting in real time, Mohan said. While hashing technology can recognize simple variations — such as if a video is sliced in half — it cannot anticipate animations or two- to three-second snippets of content, particularly if the video is altered in some way.

“Like any piece of machine learning software, our matching technology continues to get better, but frankly, it’s a work in progress,” Mohan said.

Moreover, many news organizations chose not to use the name of the alleged shooter, so people who uploaded videos about the shooting used different keywords and captions to describe their posts, presenting a challenge to the company’s detection systems and its ability to surface safe and trustworthy content.


Terrific article which depicts the real problem that YouTube’s teams have. But: that’s what you chose, folks. Allow uploads in haste, repent repeatedly at leisure.
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Hated and hunted: the ransomware cracker • BBC News

Joe Tidy:


[Fabian Losar’s] unassuming terraced house on the outskirts of London has no decorative furnishings at all. No pictures or paintings adorn the walls. No lamps or plants. The shelves are empty except for a collection of Nintendo games and some computer coding manuals.

He owns one board-game called Hacker: The Cyber Security Logic Game, which he admits he’s very good at – although he’s only ever played it alone. In short, his home isn’t very homely but this cheery, energetic young German doesn’t seem to mind. He even admits to spending “98%” of his time at home as he works from his office upstairs.

“I’m one of those people who if I don’t really have a reason to go outside, I won’t,” he says.

“I don’t really like to leave the house unless I have to. I do nearly all my shopping online and get everything delivered. I don’t really like too many things around as I spend nearly all of my time working.”

Strangely, Fabian has chosen the smallest room in his house to set up his office. This is where, with the curtains closed, he toils away for most of his waking life gaining grateful fans and hateful, dangerous enemies around the world.

He works remotely for a cyber security company, often sitting for hours at a time working with colleagues in different countries.

When he’s “in the zone”, the outside world becomes even less important and his entire existence focuses on the code on his screen. He once woke up with keyboard imprints all over his face after falling asleep during a 35-hour session.

All of this to create anti-ransomware programs that he and his company usually give away free. Victims simply download the tools he makes for each virus, follow the instructions and get their files back. You can see how he has built up such a vengeful group of angry cyber criminals.


Losar has moved to an “unknown location” since he spoke here. You can imagine there are some people who really wish very bad things for him.
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It’s not that your teeth are too big: your jaw is too small • Aeon Ideas

Professor Peter Ungar is a dental anthropologist at the University of Arkansas:


[The jaw’s] size depends both on genetics and environment; and it grows longer with heavy use, particularly during childhood, because of the way bone responds to stress. The evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman at Harvard University conducted an elegant study in 2004 on hyraxes fed soft, cooked foods and tough, raw foods. Higher chewing strains resulted in more growth in the bone that anchors the teeth. He showed that the ultimate length of a jaw depends on the stress put on it during chewing.

Selection for jaw length is based on the growth expected, given a hard or tough diet. In this way, diet determines how well jaw length matches tooth size. It is a fine balancing act, and our species has had 200,000 years to get it right. The problem for us is that, for most of that time, our ancestors didn’t feed their children the kind of mush we feed ours today. Our teeth don’t fit because they evolved instead to match the longer jaw that would develop in a more challenging strain environment. Ours are too short because we don’t give them the workout nature expects us to.

There’s plenty of evidence for this. The dental anthropologist Robert Corruccini at Southern Illinois University has seen the effects by comparing urban dwellers and rural peoples in and around the city of Chandigarh in north India – soft breads and mashed lentils on the one hand, coarse millet and tough vegetables on the other. He has also seen it from one generation to the next in the Pima peoples of Arizona, following the opening of a commercial food-processing facility on the reservation. Diet makes a huge difference. I remember asking my wife not to cut our daughters’ meat into such small pieces when they were young. ‘Let them chew,’ I begged. She replied that she’d rather pay for braces than have them choke. I lost that argument.


Good to know that even professors can lose arguments at home even in their specialist subject.
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Apple Watch detects irregular heart beat in large US study • Reuters

Manas Mishra:


Results of the largest AF screening and detection study, involving over 400,000 Apple Watch users who were invited to participate, were presented on Saturday at the American College of Cardiology meeting in New Orleans.

Of the 400,000 participants, 0.5%, or about 2,000 subjects, received notifications of an irregular pulse. Those people were sent an ECG (electrocardiography) patch to wear for subsequent detection of atrial fibrillation episodes.

A third of those whose watches detected an irregular pulse were confirmed to have atrial fibrillation using the ECG technology, researchers said.

Some 84% of the irregular pulse notifications were later confirmed to have been AF episodes, data showed.

“The physician can use the information from the study, combine it with their assessment … and then guide clinical decisions around what to do with an alert,” said Dr. Marco Perez, one of the study’s lead investigators from Stanford School of Medicine.


I don’t know enough to say whether that two-thirds false positive rate is bad, and of course we don’t know the false negative (people who weren’t alerted who did have a problem). But overall, it sounds like it’s useful.
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Myspace lost all the music its users uploaded between 2003 and 2015 • Boing Boing

Cory Doctorow:


It’s been a year since the music links on Myspace stopped working; at first the company insisted that they were working on it, but now they’ve admitted that all those files are lost: “As a result of a server migration project, any photos, videos, and audio files you uploaded more than three years ago may no longer be available on or from Myspace. We apologize for the inconvenience and suggest that you retain your back up copies. If you would like more information, please contact our Data Protection Officer, Dr. Jana Jentzsch at”

Yeah, apparently they don’t have a backup.

Someday, this will happen to Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. Don’t trust the platforms to archive your data. The Internet Archive will host anything freely distributable, for free, forever, and they have mirrors of their servers in California, Egypt and Amsterdam.


If you want a vision of the future, Smith, imagine a systems engineer facepalming – forever.
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Having a bad day? You can pay people to shower you with praise on WeChat • Abacus

Xinmei Shen:


Chat groups where people shower you with over-the-top compliments and cheesy but positive messages (for a price, of course) are gaining popularity in China. Kuakuaqun, meaning praising groups, are on WeChat and QQ.

But these aren’t just generic compliments. These groups are full of people who find extremely creative ways to find a silver lining in any dark cloud.

Here’s one of the most popular praises circulating on social media. A person fishing for compliments said: “I can’t focus on reading.” The gold-star response? “This means your knowledge level is higher than the book.” 

Another popular one starts with: “My roommate is a girl.” How can you possibly turn a plain statement like that into praise? Watch the professionals in action: “You can tell that your roommate is a girl? You have eyes for discovering treasures.” And “You now have what I dream about having.”

I wanted to hear some creative ways to compliment people – no, seriously, I didn’t need a mid-work compliment, honest – so I searched for “praising group” on Taobao. There were at least a dozen vendors, so I picked the most popular one and bought myself a praising session for five minutes, costing 50 yuan (US$7.45). 


In case the world isn’t weird enough for you just now.
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Sony Mobile revises downward fiscal 2018 smartphone shipment target • Digitimes

Max Wang and Steve Shen:


Sony Mobile Communications has revised downward its shipment target for smartphones for fiscal 2018 (April 2019-March 2019) to 6.5m units from 7m projected previously.

The revised figures will represent a decline of 51.9% from the 13.5m units shipped a year earlier.

The company cited fierce competition from Apple in Japan, Southeast Asia and Europe, as well as increasing competition from China-based brands such as Huawei and Oppo in markets outside China.

Sony Mobile also expects its handset business to generate revenues of JPY490bn (US$4.393bn) with an operating loss of JPY95bn (US$857m) for the fiscal year.

The company expects the introduction of its high-end flagship, the Xperia 1, mid-tier Xperia 10 and the entry-level Xperia L3 will bring a turnaround of its handset business in new fiscal year.


Ah, Sony, always expecting a turnaround in its mobile phone business. Of that huge loss, $153m is a writedown on “long-lived assets” – which might be factories, though who knows. Most of the rest of the business is at least static and profitable. Its smartphone division, though, is burning money.
link to this extract

Galaxy S10 owners report issues with Android Auto • SamMobile

“Josh L”:


A number of Galaxy S10 and Galaxy S10+ owners have taken to Samsung’s US Community Forum to vent their frustration that their handset won’t work with their vehicle’s Android Auto in-car infotainment system, throwing all sorts of strange error messages before crashing in most instances.

The bug doesn’t seem to follow a specific pattern — some users explained how Android Auto won’t recognise their handset, falling at the first hurdle; while others said it starts to function like normal, detecting their device, only to crash a couple of minutes later or when a command is issued.

There doesn’t appear to be a workaround for the bug, either. Reinstalling Android Auto on the handset has next to no effect, nor does a factory reset, according to users on the US Community Forum, hinting that Android Auto isn’t compatible with some builds of the device’s firmware.


Seems like Samsung rushed a bit. I’d love to see some numbers on how many cars have a) Android Auto b) Apple CarPlay c) both and how much they’re used in them. Bluetooth does an adequate job for most, I think.
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HTC to offer unlimited access to VR content at flat rate • FOCUS TAIWAN

Jiang Ming-yan and Frances Huang:


Taiwan-based smartphone brand HTC Corp., which intensified its efforts to penetrate the global VR market by launching its first VR headset – the Vive – in 2015, will provide unlimited access to VR content starting from April in an attempt to boost its revenue in the VR business.

From April 2, consumers will be able to take advantage of the Viveport Infinity program to enjoy unlimited access to VR content subscription services. Under the program, subscribers will have to pay US$12.99 per month, or US$99 per year, to get unlimited access to Viveport services.

Viveport is a Vive app store that provides users with a wider range of content for the VR headset.

According to HTC, popular games, including Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs, have timed their launch for subscription to coincide with their global release, which is expected to allow consumers choices and affordability when it comes to trialing new content in Viveport’s subscription service.


HTC really is circling the bowl, and I don’t see this helping, given that “VR content” that people will want to subscribe to is hard to come by. Having sold its smartphone team to Google for US$1bn last year, it reported a net profit of $388m – ie it burnt through more than half its windfall. I’m not sure there’s a second act in there.
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Britain’s porn watchers likely to be caught with their pants down by porn block • YouGov

Matthew Smith:


In April new government policy aimed at preventing children from accessing pornography will come into force and require adult websites to verify that visitors are at least 18 – and simply asking them won’t suffice.

Visitors will have to confirm their age using a driving licence, credit card, passport or mobile SMS. Britons will also be able to buy an age verification card in high street shops to do the same job. Only then will they be able to access the content within the website.

It’s a monumental change, and the first of its kind anywhere in the world. And despite being mere weeks from implementation, most Britons are unaware of it.

New YouGov research finds that three quarters of Britons (76%) don’t know that the so-called “porn block” is being introduced – only 24% said they knew it was on the way.

This unaware group includes half (53%) of Britain’s most frequent porn users – those who watch pornography online every day, or most days.

While Britons may have been unaware of the policy, there’s widespread backing for it once they know the details. Fully two thirds (67%) say they approve of the changes, although support declines with frequency of porn use.


“Frequency of porn use.” O tempora, o mores.
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Use and fair use: statement on shared images in facial recognition AI • Creative Commons

Ryan Merkley on questions about the legality of IBM’s use of a ton of Creative Commons-licensed photos to train facial recognition systems:


While we do not have all the facts regarding the IBM dataset, we are aware that fair use allows all types of content to be used freely, and that all types of content are collected and used every day to train and develop AI. CC licenses were designed to address a specific constraint, which they do very well: unlocking restrictive copyright. But copyright is not a good tool to protect individual privacy, to address research ethics in AI development, or to regulate the use of surveillance tools employed online. Those issues rightly belong in the public policy space, and good solutions will consider both the law and the community norms of CC licenses and content shared online in general.

I hope we will use this moment to build on the important principles and values of sharing, and engage in discussion with those using our content in objectionable ways, and to speak out on and help shape positive outcomes on the important issues of privacy, surveillance, and AI that impact the sharing of works on the web.


There’s also a new FAQ, which includes this: “If someone uses a CC-licensed work with any new or developing technology, and if copyright permission is required, then the CC license allows that use without the need to seek permission from the copyright owner so long as the license conditions are respected. This is one of the enduring qualities of our licenses — they have been carefully designed to work with all new technologies where copyright comes into play. No special or explicit permission regarding new technologies from a copyright perspective is required.”

In other words: you licensed it. You can’t unilaterally revoke the licence. (Perhaps there’ll be a new CC variant – “no AI”.)
link to this extract

Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start Up No.1,025: Beto’s Dead Cow membership, Apple responds to Spotify, Facebook’s angry algorithm tweak, how the backstop deal broke, and more

The interface to the Flight Management System on a 737: part of the source of the problem that led to two crashes. CC-licensed photo by Frans Zwart 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 13 links for you. Not delayed yet. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Flawed analysis, failed oversight: how Boeing, FAA certified the suspect 737 MAX flight control system • The Seattle Times

Dominic Gates:


That flight control system, called MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), is now under scrutiny after two crashes of the jet in less than five months resulted in Wednesday’s FAA order to ground the plane.

Current and former engineers directly involved with the evaluations or familiar with the document shared details of Boeing’s “System Safety Analysis” of MCAS, which The Seattle Times confirmed.

The safety analysis:

• Understated the power of the new flight control system, which was designed to swivel the horizontal tail to push the nose of the plane down to avert a stall. When the planes later entered service, MCAS was capable of moving the tail more than four times farther than was stated in the initial safety analysis document.
• Failed to account for how the system could reset itself each time a pilot responded, thereby missing the potential impact of the system repeatedly pushing the airplane’s nose downward.
• Assessed a failure of the system as one level below “catastrophic.” But even that “hazardous” danger level should have precluded activation of the system based on input from a single sensor — and yet that’s how it was designed.

The people who spoke to The Seattle Times and shared details of the safety analysis all spoke on condition of anonymity to protect their jobs at the FAA and other aviation organizations.

Both Boeing and the FAA were informed of the specifics of this story and were asked for responses 11 days ago, before the second crash of a 737 MAX last Sunday.


Eleven days. If the FAA had acted more quickly, scores of peoples’ lives could have been saved. (Thanks David Smith for the link.)
link to this extract

Ethiopian Airlines crash: American leadership on air safety under question across the globe • The Washington Post

Anthony Faiola:


“The Americans may feel, and not without justification, that they have the greatest insight into the Boeing aircraft,” said Sandy Morris, an aerospace analyst with the Jefferies financial group in London. “But this is a case when others in the world decided that they wanted to bring the risk of another accident down to zero. What you’ve seen here is a rebellion.”

Perhaps nowhere was US leadership on aviation safety being questioned more than in China, the first country to ground the 737 Max — an unprecedented move for a government that long followed cues from American authorities.

A top Chinese regulator said his agency made its decision because the [US] FAA [Federal Aviation Authority] and Boeing had not provided China with satisfactory answers about the airplane’s software and safety issues after the first 737 Max crash — of Lion Air Flight 610 in Indonesia that killed all 189 passengers and crew.

Li Jian, deputy director of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, suggested that the FAA was reluctant to take strong measures against the 737 Max.

“They have had difficulty making a decision, so we took the lead,” Li told reporters on Monday…

Chinese officials probably welcomed the opportunity to establish their leadership credentials at an inflection point in the country’s aviation history, analysts said. China’s civil aviation market is expected to eclipse that of the United States in three years, while its first homegrown passenger jet, the C919 narrow-body model that is designed to compete with the 737 Max, is also expected to take to the skies by the mid-2020s, at least in China.


Not mentioned in this story, but mentioned by John Gruber (who linked to it on Friday) is that the FAA has been without a commissioner for over a year. Trump nominated his personal private jet pilot. Congress laughed.
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Beto O’Rourke’s secret membership in America’s oldest hacking group • Reuters

Joseph Menn:


The hugely influential Cult of the Dead Cow, jokingly named after an abandoned Texas slaughterhouse, is notorious for releasing tools that allowed ordinary people to hack computers running Microsoft’s Windows. It’s also known for inventing the word “hacktivism” to describe human-rights-driven security work.

Members of the group have protected O’Rourke’s secret for decades, reluctant to compromise his political viability. Now, in a series of interviews, CDC members have acknowledged O’Rourke as one of their own. In all, more than a dozen members of the group agreed to be named for the first time in a book about the hacking group by this reporter that is scheduled to be published in June by Public Affairs. O’Rourke was interviewed early in his run for the Senate.

There is no indication that O’Rourke ever engaged in the edgiest sorts of hacking activity, such as breaking into computers or writing code that enabled others to do so. But his membership in the group could explain his approach to politics better than anything on his resume. His background in hacking circles has repeatedly informed his strategy as he explored and subverted established procedures in technology, the media and government.

“There’s just this profound value in being able to be apart from the system and look at it critically and have fun while you’re doing it,” O’Rourke said. “I think of the Cult of the Dead Cow as a great example of that.”

An ex-hacker running for national office would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. But that was before two national elections sent people from other nontraditional backgrounds to the White House and Congress, many of them vowing to blow up the status quo.


In some ways it’s inevitable that a hacker would be a presidential candidate at some point. In the same way, a keen video game player will also be a candidate – and in time become president. It’s just numbers.
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Addressing Spotify’s claims • Apple


The only contribution that Apple requires is for digital goods and services that are purchased inside the app using our secure in-app purchase system. As Spotify points out, that revenue share is 30% for the first year of an annual subscription — but they left out that it drops to 15% in the years after.

That’s not the only information Spotify left out about how their business works:

• The majority of customers use their free, ad-supported product, which makes no contribution to the App Store.
• A significant portion of Spotify’s customers come through partnerships with mobile carriers. This generates no App Store contribution, but requires Spotify to pay a similar distribution fee to retailers and carriers.
• Even now, only a tiny fraction of their subscriptions fall under Apple’s revenue-sharing model. Spotify is asking for that number to be zero.

Let’s be clear about what that means. Apple connects Spotify to our users. We provide the platform by which users download and update their app. We share critical software development tools to support Spotify’s app building. And we built a secure payment system — no small undertaking — which allows users to have faith in in-app transactions. Spotify is asking to keep all those benefits while also retaining 100% of the revenue.


It would be quite a data point if we found out how many people signed up for Spotify through the iOS app. Especially given how much bigger Google Play is in user numbers.
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Norway joins list of countries canceling Elsevier contracts • The Scientist Magazine®

Catherine Offord:


Norway has become latest country to cancel its contracts with Elsevier following a dispute over access to research papers. In a statement published yesterday (March 12), the Norwegian Directorate for ICT and Joint Services in Higher Education and Research (UNIT), which represents a consortium of research institutions in the country, rejected Elsevier’s offer to lower some of its costs for Norwegian institutions because it didn’t go far enough to promote free access to published research.

“The offer from Elsevier is far from fulfilling the requirements of Norway for open access to research articles,” the agency says in a statement (translated by Google). “Nor is there any movement in the agreement [about] paying for publishing instead of paying for reading access. The agreement with Elsevier is therefore not renewed for 2019.”

Norwegian institutions had been arguing for a so-called “read-and-publish” arrangement. Currently, most institutions pay both to read articles on Elsevier, which hosts around academic 2,500 journals, and to provide open access to their own articles on the platform. A read-and-publish deal would combine those costs into one and make papers immediately available on publication.


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Margrethe Vestager to hit Google with another fine • Financial Times

Rochelle Toplensky:


The latest investigation has focused on Google’s AdSense business, which places its search box on third-party websites, such as news websites. The commission can fine up to an additional $13bn — which is 10% of the latest global turnover of Google’s parent company, Alphabet — but the penalty is expected to be significantly smaller than the maximum.

As outlined in their 2016 charge sheet, EU officials worried that Google “artificially reduced choice and stifled innovation in the market” by contractually restricting how third-party websites display search ads from rivals.

The EU case centres on Google demands, introduced in 2006, that required a number of popular third-party websites to use its ad service exclusively if they wanted to include the Google search box on their site. In 2009, the company relaxed the restrictions to allow the websites to show competing advertisers on their pages, but required they display a minimum number of Google ads in prime locations and give Google the right to authorise changes to competitors’ ads. The contract terms were ultimately phased out from 2016.

While next week’s fine will bring an end to the AdSense investigation, EU antitrust officials continue to scrutinise Google’s behaviour in other services — such as dedicated search for travel, jobs and local businesses — and could open fresh probes.


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Walmart readies low-priced rival to Apple iPad • Bloomberg

Matthew Boyle:


Look out Apple — Walmart Inc. is moving into iPad territory.

The world’s largest retailer plans to introduce an inexpensive, kid-friendly tablet computer under its ONN store brand, part of a broader redesign of its electronics department. The device will be made by a Chinese supplier and run on Google’s Android operating system, according to photos found on a database of wireless product applications filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission.

Tara House, a Walmart spokeswoman, confirmed the product is in the works, though declined to comment further. The price of the device, or when it will debut, hasn’t been disclosed.

Walmart’s device could bring some life to the sluggish tablet market, which has been declining for several years. Tablet users don’t buy new ones at the same pace as they replace smartphones, which have also grown in size and capacity, reducing the need for a larger device. In 2018 tablet shipments fell 6.2%, according to data tracker Strategy Analytics.


“iPad rival”. Wow, is it 2012 again? Android Police’s take on this was “Crap store plans crap tablet“.
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Young entrepreneur series: Atta Elayyan • UC Centre for Entrepreneurship


Atta Elayyan is currently CEO of Christchurch-based app development company LWA Solutions. Atta co-founded the company with Mike Choeung in 2010 and has grown the company to a 12-strong team. The team has completed projects for both New Zealand and overseas customers such as Trade Me, Mediaworks, Microsoft and Aramex. The latter being the largest logistics and transport company in the Middle East. For Aramex, LWA Solutions facilitated an innovative and user-centered solution. In fact, Atta and his team spent a week in Jordan with Aramex courier drivers to observe their daily routine and gain insight into how the courier drivers could use technology to enhance their everyday work.

Replacing clunky and expensive devices, they implemented a bring-your-own-device system, turning smartphones into scanners. LWA Solutions crafted a solution with unique task management software applied to low-end smart phones specifically for Aramex. This enabled Aramex to completely streamline their business processes and enables scaling without huge hardware costs. Ultimately, a complete transformation of how Aramex do business. On reflection, it is amazing that such an incredible tech-driven international business can be run so successfully from Christchurch.


Sadly, he was one of the victims in the terrorist attack in Christchurch. New Zealand’s government is now looking to change its laws to prevent anyone getting hold of (or creating) semi-automatics. (Thanks Richard for the link.)
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One year in, Facebook’s big algorithm change has spurred an angry, Fox News-dominated – and very engaged! – News Feed • Nieman Journalism Lab

Laura Hazard Owen:


A new report from social media tracking company NewsWhip shows that the turn toward “meaningful interactions” has:

• pushed up articles on divisive topics like abortion, religion, and guns;
• politics rules; and
• the “angry” reaction (😡) dominates many pages, with “Fox News driving the most angry reactions of anyone, with nearly double that of anyone else.”

Of course, all that isn’t only Facebook’s fault. The content that dominates the platform now might have risen even without an algorithmic boost. But what’s clear is that Mark Zuckerberg’s January 2018 exhortation that the time spent on Facebook be “time well spent” has not come to pass: Instead, it’s often an angry, reactive place where people go to get worked up and to get scared. Here are the two most-shared Facebook stories of 2019 so far:

Engagement — likes, comments, shares, reactions — has risen. For the first few months of this year, it was 50% higher than it was in 2018, and about 10% higher than it was in 2017 (which, remember, included Trump’s inauguration, large-scale protests, and the chaotic early days of his presidency).

“There is a possibility that Facebook’s friends and family focus, getting people to read what their networks are sharing rather than what pages are promoting, may have contributed to this increase as people shared articles they enjoyed on the network,” NewsWhip says.


So you’re saying it’s still a cesspit, and that your “tuning” has made it worse, Mr Zuckerberg?
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Cryptocurrency startup Prodeum pulls exit scam, leaves a dick behind • The Next Web

Dimitar Mihov:


It remains unclear precisely how much cash the startup has lifted from its investors, but its entry on ICO Watchlist indicates Prodeum completed 18% from its funding goal. For context, its white paper lists the soft and hard caps for the ICO at 2,100 and 5,400 ETH, respectively. The current price of Ethereum is $1,194, according to CoinMarketCap.

Prodeum is the latest cryptocurrency company to pull an exit scam.

Last year, a sketchy Bitcoin investment platform known as BitPetite suddenly went dark, leaving with all of its investors’ coins.

Only weeks later, another cryptocurrency company, called Confido, wiped its digital fingerprints and dashed off with its customers’ investments. The move came days after its founders said they’ve ran into legal obstacles.


I’d be trying to sell any of those junk “coins” – actually penny shares without the voting rights – if I’d bought any.
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Xiaomi/Apple: all about Mi • Financial Times

The “Lex” opinion column isn’t keen on Xiaomi’s prospects:


Xiaomi is number one in India in shipment terms, and one of the top five in Europe. The group has partnered with Foxconn to make phones in India where just a third of the population use smartphones. Apple has just over 1% of that market. 

Margins are higher within an internet-of-things and household electronics business. Margins are higher here, but unlikely to offset weakness in Chinese smartphone sales.

Xiaomi lacks Apple’s pricing muscle. In 2016, Xiaomi held top market share in China, which accounted for more than 70% of its revenue. ZTE, Huawei, Oppo and Vivo have since undercut Xiaomi on value and through easier access via physical stores. 

China’s move to 5G this year will bring significant demand for new smartphones over the next few years. But Xiaomi’s premium plan is fraught with risk. Raising prices in its home market may threaten its tenuous grip on its number five spot. Doubts about Xiaomi’s strategy when it came to market have proved well-founded. The shares have fallen 43% from their peak shortly afterwards, and may fall further.


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How Theresa May’s winning backstop deal was done… and why Geoffrey Cox blew it apart • RTE

Tony Connelly, for the Irish radio station:


The [UK]Attorney General [Geoffrey Cox, who provides legal advice to the UK government] was already on the defensive. The UK had had to drop the very public demands for a unilateral exit clause or expiry date. Cox therefore wanted independent arbitration to be the next best thing as a way out.

He first suggested the arbitration be outside the dispute mechanisms already enshrined in the Withdrawal Agreement. That was immediately rejected by Barnier.

He [Cox] then made further arguments which baffled and irritated the EU side. 

First, he suggested that if the trade negotiations broke down then it would, by default, mean the backstop applying indefinitely. Since Article 50 was designed to be a temporary state, that meant the EU was breaking its own rules.

Cox then argued that Northern Ireland citizens would be subject to single market rules, yet not represented in the European Parliament or in ministerial meetings. The backstop was therefore in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Combine those arguments and the UK should be entitled to walk away from the backstop. EU officials were in disbelief. 

“There was a fundamental disagreement,” recalls one official, briefed on the dinner. “It wasn’t on the principle of arbitration. It was on what the arbitration can cover, and what comes next.”

The mood in Brussels darkened. Cox and Steve Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, returned to London. Sabine Weyand continued technical talks with Olly Robbins, her opposite number. 


Cox was both negotiating, and declaring what the negotiations meant – “marking his own homework”, as one MP put it. I suspect he thought his ECHR twist was very clever and would show those Brussels suits who was the smartest person in the room. Turns out, that didn’t really matter. The full story also shows how much high-level negotiation is now done via Twitter, which is quite weird.

American readers will probably find this impenetrable. You’re not alone, folks.
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Two-thirds of all Android antivirus apps are frauds • ZDNet

Catalin Cimpanu:


An organization specialized in testing antivirus products concluded in a report published this week that roughly two-thirds of all Android antivirus apps are a sham and don’t work as advertised.

The report, published by Austrian antivirus testing outfit AV-Comparatives, was the result of a grueling testing process that took place in January this year and during which the organization’s staff looked at 250 Android antivirus apps available on the official Google Play Store.

The report’s results are tragicomical – with antivirus apps detecting themselves as malware – and come to show the sorry state of Android antivirus industry, which appears to be filled with more snake-oilers than actual cyber-security vendors.


Only two-thirds? Though I think you can say that 100% of iOS “antivirus” apps won’t be able to detect if something bad is going on, because they wouldn’t be allowed out of their sandbox. I leave it to readers to decide how to describe that.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified