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.

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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

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

  1. “it won’t be the 2018 models, since Apple now uses Intel modems.”

    Say what ? Are you saying Intel modems axiomatically can’t violate a Qualcomm patent ?

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