Start Up No.1,157: Huawei Mate 30 workaround blocked, games competition intensifies, Ladybirding Trump, and more


Does the sight or sound of this person annoy the hell out of you? Then we can make a lot of predictions about you. CC-licensed photo by World Economic Forum on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. No quid, not a pro. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Huawei Mate30 loses SafetyNet certification and Google Apps install workaround • Android Police

Ryne Hager:

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John Wu’s explanation appears to have caught some other critical eyes as well, as shortly after it made the rounds earlier today, the site hosting the LZ Play app was taken down. We aren’t sure if it was taken down by the developer behind the app (someone named QiHoo Jiagu, according to Wu) or the site’s hosting service Alibaba. It’s possible that Huawei was concerned regarding the bad press circulated about the technical details and sent the project or its host the Chinese equivalent of a cease and desist — though, presumably, the app would have needed Huawei’s blessing in the first place to work.

Whatever the cause or explanation, lzplay.net is down, and the Mate 30’s workaround for the Google Play Store has disappeared with it. In the meantime, folks interested in installing Google’s apps onto their devices will probably just find even less trustworthy sources for the LZ Play app now that it’s already out in the wild.

Shortly after publication of the original version of this post, our friends at Android Central noticed that the Huawei Mate 30 no longer passes Google’s SafetyNet security test:

It’s a little odd that the Mate 30 Pro passed SafetyNet to begin with. While some of the inner workings behind SafetyNet are unknown, it’s supposed to work by comparing a signature generated on the phone with “reference data for approved Android devices” held by Google. While that doesn’t mean that Google necessarily has to coordinate with Huawei to get that data in a way that might violate the current trade ban, it does imply the possibility. Google, as a US company, isn’t supposed to be playing that sort of pattycake with Huawei.

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Seems like Google noticed this workaround, and blocked it. Plus the method that enabled it was super-unsafe. The Mate 30’s problems continue.
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Misogyny, male rage and the words men use to describe Greta Thunberg • The Conversation

Camilla Nelson:

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At a deep level, the language of climate denialism is tied up with a form of masculine identity predicated on modern industrial capitalism – specifically, the Promethean idea of the conquest of nature by man, in a world especially made for men.

By attacking industrial capitalism, and its ethos of politics as usual, Thunberg is not only attacking the core beliefs and world view of certain sorts of men, but also their sense of masculine self-worth. Male rage is their knee-jerk response.

Thunberg did not try to be “nice” when she confronted world leaders at the United Nations last week. She did not defer or smile. She did not attempt to make anybody feel comfortable.

US President Donald Trump tweeted: “She seems like a very happy young girl looking forward to a bright and wonderful future. So nice to see!” Happiness here aligns itself with conformity, and an unspoken idea that women and children are expected to be docile and complacent.

But in reality, Thunberg is cutting through – rather than displaying – emotionalism. What certain kinds of men do not wish to acknowledge is that asking for action on climate change is entirely rational.

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To quote someone from Twitter, Thunberg really boils a lot of these peoples’ piss. (Nelson is a professor of media.)
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Apple Arcade is a home for premium games that lost their place on mobile • The Verge

Andrew Webster:

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Noodlecake was in a similar position. The studio is best-known for the Super Stickman Golf series, but it’s also become a major publisher of indie titles on both iOS and Android. There were a number of titles the studio was looking at, but was unsure of where they could live before Arcade came along. Holowaty cites his studio’s Arcade launch title Possessions — an emotional puzzle game about looking at objects from different perspectives — as an example. “It would’ve been a hard decision as to how we would go about publishing that game, because it’s a shorter experience. It’s a more artsy puzzle game, and a premium experience like that on the App Store isn’t really selling anymore,” he explains. “We knew that would be a struggle.”

It helps that games don’t have to be exclusive to Apple Arcade. They can’t appear on other mobile platforms or subscription services, but otherwise developers are free to support Arcade and sell their games on console or PC. Standout launch title Sayonara Wild Hearts, for instance, is also available on the Nintendo Switch and on PS4. The real loser in this scenario is Android users, who likely won’t see many of the biggest iPhone games ported to their platform of choice. For developers, though, this may not be a huge loss. “If premium games were dying on iOS,” Holowaty says, “they’ve been a rotting corpse on Android.” (Holowaty speaks from experience: Noodlecake has long been the go-to studio for porting iOS hits to Android.)

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It’s the Netflix model, essentially, but brought to games.
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Sony cuts PlayStation Now monthly price by 50%, to $9.99 in the US • Variety

Todd Spangler:

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Facing new competition for consumers’ entertainment spending, Sony is slashing the price of the PlayStation Now game-subscription service — with the monthly tier now starting at $9.99, down from $19.99 previously.

Sony Interactive Entertainment also said PlayStation Now will add new limited-time blockbuster titles including “Grand Theft Auto V” and “God of War” to its lineup of more than 800 games available on the service.

The move comes after Apple and Google each launched app subscription services priced at $4.99 per month: Apple Arcade includes over 100 exclusive game titles, and Google bowed the $5-per-month app subscription service with access to more than 350 games and apps. Other game subscription plans include Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, regularly priced at $9.99 (for console or PC only) or $14.99 per month (console plus PC), which offers 100 titles including “PUBG,” “Minecraft” and “Gears of War 4.”

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Odd that Sony appears to be feeling pressure from Apple and Google; they’re totally different offerings from a console. It seems more likely that it’s about Microsoft, doesn’t it?
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Trump is too dangerous for Twitter • The New York Times

Kara Swisher:

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in recent weeks, including at a fancy-pants Washington dinner party this past weekend, I have been testing my companions with a hypothetical scenario. My premise has been to ask what Twitter management should do if Mr. Trump loses the 2020 election and tweets inaccurately the next day that there had been widespread fraud and, moreover, that people should rise up in armed insurrection to keep him in office.

Most people I have posed this question to have had the same response: Throw Mr. Trump off Twitter for inciting violence. A few have said he should be only temporarily suspended to quell any unrest. Very few said he should be allowed to continue to use the service without repercussions if he was no longer the president. One high-level government official asked me what I would do. My answer: I would never have let it get this bad to begin with.

Now my hypothetical game has come much closer to reality. In using a quote to hide behind what he was actually trying to say, Mr. Trump was testing the system, using a tactic that is enormously dangerous.

It’s important to stress that what Mr. Trump is doing is no different from what various autocrats and haters around the world are doing with social media platforms to push their malevolent agendas. With this latest move by the troller in chief, with no reaction from Twitter, it’s official that the medium has been hijacked by those who want to take advantage of its porous and sloppy rules.

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Anyone else would indeed have been thrown off Twitter; people have been barred forever for much, much less. The absurd latitude that “politicians” are afforded by Twitter and Facebook is indefensible.
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How to write a Ladybird book about Trump without quoting Trump: the comics’ dilemma • The i

Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris are comedy writers who created the “adult Ladybird” books, which show the ennui of life:

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the Brexit debate had been redefined as a tribal battle for the soul of an imagined Britain, and we had unprecedented access [in the Ladybird picture archive] to a collection of nostalgic images of sunlit uplands and vintage certainty; a fantasy land that clearly resembled the inside of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s head. A Brexit Ladybird book could blend nostalgia and knackeredness, and maybe that was the non-divisive joke we’d been looking for.

The Story of Brexit: A Ladybird Book turned out to be a surprise hit. We were initially concerned that our book might be overtaken by events, but at a research lunch with a prominent political editor, we were assured that despite the appearance of a frenzied news cycle, politics was actually trapped in a Groundhog Day stalemate. Sure enough, over a year later, the book is still selling, maybe because it remains a topical depiction of a nation attempting to achieve six impossible things before breakfast.

And that was that. But a few months later our editor sent us a mock-up of a Ladybird cover – something we occasionally did to entertain each other, trying out impossible titles (The Ladybird Book of Mark Rylance or People at Work: The KLF) that we knew would never get off the drawing board.

His cut-up had a fat, painterly orange on a plain background – a baby-friendly image from a First Words book. Above it, in stern block capitals: The Ladybird Book of Donald Trump. We replied with an email laugh, and forgot all about it. A week later our publicist messaged us: “Are you guys doing that Trump book, then?” We answered, slightly baffled. “Sorry – was that joke a commission?”

With a bit of effort we could surely find Trumpian images of wealth, power and vulgarity
Our editor came back and said: “No, it was only a joke.” Then, about five minutes later, another email: “But if we asked, could you do it?” Maybe we could. The orange was very funny.

So we found ourselves doing the other book we said we would never do.

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Their podcast “Rule of Three”, where they deconstruct comedy work with another comic, is consistently excellent.
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Apple Watch Series 5 review: the best smartwatch is now a watch • WSJ

Joanna Stern:

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For Apple Watch owners, it has become muscle memory: Tap the screen—even with your nose—or lift your wrist to wake the display. The Series 5 allows you to break that habit, with a screen that always shows the time but dims nonvital information and graphics until you wake it up.

Two technical changes allow the screen to be on all day without killing the battery: a new screen component that adjusts the refresh rate, along with optimized watch faces that go bare bones when not in use. Mickey Mouse, for instance, still points to the hour and minute, but stops tapping his foot to count out every second. Apple optimized all watch faces to support this.

I’ve already found the always-on helpful in some situations. When racing through the airport, for example, coffee in one hand, roller-bag handle in the other, I could glance down at my arm to see if I had time to grab a snack. When running, I found the dimmer, optimized version of the Workout app great for tracking my pace—though bright sunlight made it harder to see.

With the always-on display, I was able to make it through a full day—7 a.m. to 11 p.m.—with just under 10% battery left. But when I disabled the always-on feature in settings, I had 30% remaining—just like with my Series 4. (I have been testing the smaller 40mm model—not the larger 44mm model.)

I have so far used the trusty compass, enabled by the watch’s new magnetometer, just once. I was coming out of the subway and wanted to make sure I was headed in the right direction.

The Series 5 is, otherwise, just like the Series 4. And that’s a great thing. The Series 4’s bigger screen and health features made it the first watch I could confidently recommend to all. (If you weren’t confused enough: The 4 is no longer on sale; Apple replaced it with the 5, which costs the same amount.)

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Stern really does do the (wo)man-in-the-street reviews, which I’ve always thought were the way to go for this equipment, rather than spec-laden jargon. Her email inbox shows that’s what people want, too.
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I used to fear being a nobody. Then I left social media • The New York Times

Bianca Vivion Brooks:

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I began using Twitter in 2010 as a newly minted high school freshman. Though it began as a hub for my quirky adolescent thoughts, over the years it became an archive of my emotional and intellectual voice — a kind of virtual display for the evolution of my politics and artistic identity. But after nine years, it was time to close the archive. My wanting to share my every waking thought became eclipsed by a desire for an increasingly rare commodity — a private life.

Though I thought disappearing from social media would be as simple as logging off, my refusal to post anything caused a bit of a stir among my small but loyal following. I began to receive emails from strangers asking me where I had gone and when I would return. One message read: “Not to be over familiar, but you have to come back eventually. You’re a writer after all. How will we read your writing?” Another follower inquired, “Where will you go?”

The truth is I have not gone anywhere. I am, in fact, more present than ever.

Over time, I have begun to sense these messages reveal more than a lack of respect for privacy. I realize that to many millennials, a life without a social media presence is not simply a private life; it is no life at all: We possess a widespread, genuine fear of obscurity.

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I think that “widespread, genuine fear of obscurity” is comparatively new. Rewind 30 or 40 years, and all that most people knew was obscurity, but to their friends, partners and family they weren’t obscure at all; they were well-known, because our potential social circle was much smaller. Now it encompasses the entire world, and we have a view of our position among a few billion people. That drives a “fear of obscurity”.

Also, in passing, a note from the article: “Ms. Brooks hosts a weekly culture podcast, ‘Ask Viv.'” So, not that removed from the social whirl, then.
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Graphics that seem clear can easily be misread • Scientific American

Alberto Cairo:

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Say that you are obese, and you’ve grown tired of family, friends and your doctor telling you that obesity may increase your risk for diabetes, heart disease, even cancer—all of which could shorten your life. One day you see this chart (below). Suddenly you feel better because it shows that, in general, the more obese people a country has (right side of chart), the higher the life expectancy (top of chart). Therefore, obese people must live longer, you think. After all, the correlation (red line) is quite strong.


Credit: Alberto Cairo; Consultant: Heather Krause, Datassist; Sources: “Association between Class III Obesity (BMI of 40-59 kg/m2) and Mortality: A Polled Analysis of 20 Prospective Studies,” by Cari M. Kitahara et al., in PLOS Medicine; July 8 2014; CIA World Factbook (worldwide obesity rates, 2016); How Charts Lie: Getting Smarter about Visual Information, by Alberto Cairo, W. W. Norton (in press)

The chart itself is not incorrect. But it doesn’t really show that the more obese people are, the longer they live. A more thorough description would be: “At the national level—country by country—there is a positive association between obesity rates and life expectancy at birth, and vice versa.” Still, this does not mean that a positive association will hold at the local or individual level or that there is a causal link. Two fallacies are involved.

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The graphic might be clear, but its axes are poorly chosen, as you’ve probably already figured out. But the rest of the post is interesting too, because it shows that you can slice and dice all sorts of data around just this question, and not quite get to the core of its cause.
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EU brings in ‘right to repair’ rules for appliances • BBC News

Roger Harribin:

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Household appliances will become easier to repair thanks to new standards being adopted across the European Union.

From 2021, firms will have to make appliances longer-lasting, and they will have to supply spare parts for machines for up to 10 years. The rules apply to lighting, washing machines, dishwashers and fridges.

But campaigners for the “right to repair” say they do not go far enough as only professionals – not consumers – will be able carry out the repairs.

The legislation has been prompted by complaints from consumers across Europe and North America infuriated by machines that break down when they are just out of warranty.

Owners are usually unable to repair the machines themselves – or find anyone else to do it at a decent price – so are forced to buy a replacement. This creates waste and fuels global warming through the greenhouse gases created in the manufacturing process for new machines.

In the US, around 20 states are said to have right to repair legislation in progress.

Under the European Commission’s new standards, manufacturers will have to make spares, such as door gaskets and thermostats, available to professional repairers. These parts will have to be accessible with commonly-available tools and without damaging the product.

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Nice, but for British readers we’ll be outside the EU by then (almost certainly). Oh, so the UK’s going to follow the same rules? Great. The other problem is diagnosing the problem correctly – at this point one hopes YouTube and installation/repair manuals will also have to go online. There’s still a problem, though, in doing it well. Repair technicians do it again and again, rather than coming to it for the first time. And no, this doesn’t apply to phones.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

7 thoughts on “Start Up No.1,157: Huawei Mate 30 workaround blocked, games competition intensifies, Ladybirding Trump, and more

  1. re. iWatch review

    It’s surprising/disappointing no one’s managing to spot when we’re looking at our watches. The always-on screen has been an on-again (sorry), off-again feature of Android smartwatches, the most extravagant is a Mobvoi model that has 2 layered screens, one for the smartwatch part and a low-power one for the dumbwatch part when the smartwatch goes to sleep. I’d still prefer the lamented Pebble’s e-ink screen.

    Man-on the street reviews are dope for general-public stuff, but extremely difficult because to be any kind of interesting the reviewer must be market-competent and hide it. I’ve come across a few true man-on-the-street reviews by clueless people, and those are majorly frustating, as in “I don’t know how to do something and can’t be bothered to RTFM, so the feature is missing or broken”, and ” I’m used to something else, so this sucks”. With the passing of Jerry Pournelle, Paul Thurrott is my go-to (less nerdy, more partisan); also randoms on Medium before Medium paywalled everything. As a counterpoint, we’ve been graced by a few reviews from a returning Andrew Cunningham; he doesn’t pretend to be an Average Joe, but manages to be neutral and user-focused and insightful and entertaining.
    https://arstechnica.com/features/2018/09/macos-10-14-mojave-the-ars-technica-review/
    https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2019/09/ipados-on-the-ipad-air-2-old-tablets-can-still-learn-new-tricks/

    • I saw the Andrew Cunningham reviews you link to there, and didn’t find anything of interest in them. Joanna Stern, by contrast, both understands this stuff and is able to put it into the ordinary user’s context – because most users are ordinary, not expert.

      The Pebble tried, but the lack of exercise and directly interactive elements (eg dictation, timers) crippled it. I expect Apple tried e-ink and rejected it for that reason.

      I’ve just got a Series 5, and I’ve turned off the always-on preference. It’s sensitive enough to a wrist turn, and if I think I’m really going to be in a situation where I’ll want to know the time without moving my wrist, I can turn it back on.

      • Probably because you already know that Apple stuff. I don’t mostly, and at the end of the review I do feel half-informed, when most reviews make me feel quarter-informed. I still get surprises when I manage some hands-on, like that back arrow at the top left corner on iPhones, or the dismal network control panel on older MacOS.

        I also mightily appreciate that they’re not fawning. That “ugly” planned obsolescence of older macs should probably be more commented upon. Both from a user-friendliness and a “we’re the greenest !” POV. I find that of interest, especially when it’s overlooked elsewhere.

  2. I’m still a bit unsure how deep Mobile gaming can go. I bought a BT paddle+phone holder for my right-smack-target-market 13yo nephew, he’s barely using it, and didn’t want a gamer phone when I offered. Adults around me are playing candy-crush level junk. And I’m playing Belote coinchée.
    I think disrupting consoles via mobile-ecosystem TV boxes (maybe tablets) is more likely. nVidia seems happy with the Shield results ?

  3. Regarding social media rules, what is a declaration of war, or being in favor of war, but advocacy of violence? If a politician makes a speech calling for war, should it be a bannable offense for the politician to post it on social media? What if people want to discuss that call to war, and some are in favor of it – perhaps crudely. There are some very weird and unexamined assumptions here, which are being completely steamrollered by the overwhelming impulse to essentially fulminate Orange Man Bad.

    I feel very old. We’ve come a long way from the hype of No Gatekeepers, and anyone who disagreed was a dinosaur priest. Now the trendy viewpoint is that’s is absolutely essential to Gatekeeper Harder, and anyone who disagrees is a ‘gator heretic.

    • It’s a blurry line. From discussing that Russia has started to invade eastern Europe (an objective fact, about a foreign country), to advocating killing/concentrating [insert religious/color/sexual/political/social… minority here] (mostly for untrue/subjective reasons, about fellow citizen), to anything in-between (foreign-born citizen that combine several minority traits and have objective issues as a group).

      The issue with allowing (legally and/or socially) anything is that you legitimize anything, and idiocy and hate carry more immediate rewards than reason and love (or at least empathy). And greedy actors have mastered the art of psychological manipulation to a unheard-of degree (helped by a bit of rot on the other side).

      Yep, Orange man bad. But it’s very hard to articulate why when besieged at each turn by shameless false, effective manipulation. It’s very hard not to give up and take shortcuts that boomerang back. I’m practicing with the Apple stuff ;-p

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