Start Up No.1206: Amazon’s Ring cameras mapped, hidden in hashtags, China dumping US PCs, Bo de-selection?, and more


William Gibson’s back, and the future’s not that bright. CC-licensed photo by gilly youner on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. It’s a consensual hallucination. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Ring’s Neighbors data let us map Amazon’s home surveillance network • Gizmodo

Dell Cameron and Dhruv Mehrotra:

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Gizmodo has acquired data over the past month connected to nearly 65,800 individual posts shared by users of the Neighbors app. The posts, which reach back 500 days from the point of collection, offer extraordinary insight into the proliferation of Ring video surveillance across American neighborhoods and raise important questions about the privacy trade-offs of a consumer-driven network of surveillance cameras controlled by one of the world’s most powerful corporations.

And not just for those whose faces have been recorded.

Examining the network traffic of the Neighbors app produced unexpected data, including hidden geographic coordinates that are connected to each post—latitude and longitude with up to six decimal points of precision, accurate enough to pinpoint roughly a square inch of ground.

Neighbors, which has millions of users, is advertised as a way to receive “real-time crime and safety alerts” from local law enforcement and other Neighbors users nearby. A Ring camera isn’t required to use the app. In cities where police have partnered with Ring, police officers have access to a special law enforcement portal, through which the officers can request access to Ring footage. They can choose a date, a time, and a location on a map, and Neighbors users with cameras in the vicinity are alerted.

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They found about 20,000 cameras, and then stopped because they felt they’d proved their point – but there are many, many more out there. A researcher at MIT Media Lab has located 440,000 cameras in 1,800 US counties.

In Europe, Amazon would be looking down the wrong end of a giant GDPR lawsuit.
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How William Gibson keeps his science fiction real • The New Yorker

Joshua Rothman:

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Gibson is now seventy-one. Bald and skinny, six feet five but for a slight stoop, he dresses almost exclusively in a mixture of futuristic techwear and mid-twentieth-century American clothing painstakingly reproduced by companies in Japan. It was late on a gray afternoon; we sat at the bar of a cozy bistro—warm wood, zinc bar, brass fixtures—while Gibson, in his slow, quiet, wowed-out, distantly Southern drawl, described the work of keeping up with the present.

“With each set of three books, I’ve commenced with a sort of deep reading of the fuckedness quotient of the day,” he explained. “I then have to adjust my fiction in relation to how fucked and how far out the present actually is.” He squinted through his glasses at the ceiling. “It isn’t an intellectual process, and it’s not prescient—it’s about what I can bring myself to believe.”

“Agency” is a sequel to Gibson’s previous novel, “The Peripheral,” from 2014, which is currently being adapted into a television show for Amazon, executive-produced by the creators of “Westworld.” In writing “The Peripheral,” he’d been able to bring himself to believe in the reality of an ongoing slow-motion apocalypse called “the jackpot.” A character describes the jackpot as “multicausal”—“more a climate than an event.” The world eases into it gradually, as all the bad things we worry about—rising oceans, crop failures, drug-resistant diseases, resource wars, and so on—happen, here and there, to varying degrees, over the better part of the twenty-first century, adding up to “androgenic, systemic, multiplex, seriously bad shit” that eventually kills eighty% of the human race. It’s a Gibsonian apocalypse: the end of the world is already here; it’s just not very evenly distributed. One character reacts to the jackpot equivocally: “Either depressing and scared the fuck out of me or sort of how I’d always figured things are?”

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Essential reading.
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Hashtag steganography • Terence Eden’s Blog

null:

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I recently saw someone tweeting the hashtag #ManchesُterDerby

Do you see an odd character in the middle? It’s an Arabic Damma (U+064F) – a vowel character. Although it comes after the “s” in Manchester, it appears after the “t” because it is a Right-To-Left (RTL) character.

Yet, if you click on the hashtag with the extra character, you get through to the same page as if you had visited the regular #ManchesterDerby page.

If you visit the page of a hashtag with ignored character, something interesting happens. Hitting the “Tweet” button pre-fills your message with the hashtag. Not the normalised tag, but the one with hidden characters.

Try it now! Visit #Ŕöméø, you’ll see all sorts of different #Romeo Tweets, but hit the Tweet button and see what happens.

A marketing campaign could give out identical looking hashtags to influencers – for example:
Alice #Campaig%CD%8Fn
Bob #Camp%CD%8Faign
Eve #C%CD%8Fa%CD%8Fm%CD%8Fp%CD%8Fa%CD%8Fi%CD%8Fgn

By seeing which of those subtly-different-but-semanticly-identical hashtags is used the most, it might be possible to see which influencer has the biggest reach.

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Or other uses you might be able to think of…
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This impeachment is different—and more dangerous • POLITICO

Lawrence Lessig:

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In a nation dedicated to freedom of the press, it’s impossible—not to mention undesirable—to legislate limits on political speech. That cannot be the role of government if democracy is to remain free of state control.

But the nation could use some temporary, if voluntary, restraint. The business model of hate may well pay for both politicians and the media. But the cost to the republic of this profit will be profound. This is a moment to knit common understandings, not a time to craft even more perfectly separated realities.

That knitting could begin with both networks and digital platforms asking not what is best for them, individually, but what would be best for us all, together. Which network or platform strategies will enable a more common understanding among all of us? And which strategies will simply drive even more committed tribe-based ignorance? The norms should be different in the context of impeachment, even if that means networks and platforms would be less profitable. Not because this president, in particular, must be respected, but because any president charged with impeachment deserves a nation that at least understands the charge. If we as a people are to be persistently polled and our views so persistently legible to our representatives, then at least we should know enough in common to make judgments in common.

…Social media platforms have responsibilities here as well. We don’t yet know the consequences of those platforms forgoing political ads in the context of an entire election season—even as some experiment with doing so. But impeachment could be an important moment to experiment even more fully. This is precisely the kind of question for which we do not need interested ad-driven spin. It is precisely the moment when Facebook and Twitter together could take the lead in turning away ads aimed at rallying a base or trashing the opposition.

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(Thanks Seth for the link.)
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Greeks set to face heavy fines if they don’t spend 30% of their income electronically • Sydney Morning Herald

Tom Rees:

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Greeks will be hit with a hefty fine if they do not spend almost a third of their income electronically in an unprecedented bid by the new government to stamp out rampant tax evasion.

The government expects to raise more than €500m ($808m) every year from the initiative that will force Greeks to spend 30% of their income electronically, Alex Patelis, the prime minister’s chief economic adviser, revealed.

Individuals that fail to meet the target will be hit with a 22% fine on the shortfall. Therefore, if an individual spends just 20% of their income through electronic means, they would face a 22% tax on the remaining 10%, bar some exclusions.

The scheme is a radical attempt to cast some light on Greece’s huge shadow economy, the world’s largest, and is part of new prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’s sweeping overhaul to revive growth.

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But… won’t this encourage exactly the cash economy that they’re trying to discourage? Unless they can persuade all the retailers to only sell electronically.
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The case for growth centers: how to spread tech innovation across America • Brookings Institute

Robert D. Atkinson, Mark Muro, and Jacob Whiton:

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Regional divergence has reached extreme levels in the U.S. innovation sector. The innovation sector—composed of 13 of the nation’s highest-tech, highest R&D “advanced industries—contributes inordinately to regional and U.S. prosperity, and its diffusion into new places would greatly benefit the nation’s well-being.

However, the sector has instead been concentrating in a short list of superstar metropolitan areas. Most notably, just five top innovation metro areas—Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, and San Diego—accounted for more than 90% of the nation’s innovation-sector growth during the years 2005 to 2017. As such, they have increased their share of the nation’s total innovation employment from 17.6% to 22.8%. In contrast, the bottom 90% of metro areas (343 of them) lost one-third of the nation’s innovation jobs now reside in just 16 counties, and more than half are concentrated in 41 counties.

Such high levels of territorial polarization are a grave national problem. At the economic end of the equation, the costs of excessive tech concentration are creating serious negative externalities. These range from spiraling home prices and traffic gridlock in the superstar hubs to a problematic “sorting” of workers, with college-educated workers clustering in the star cities, leaving other metro areas to make do with thinner talent reservoirs. As a result, whole portions of the nation may now be falling into “traps” of underdevelopment—and that is creating baleful social impacts.

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Inside the hate factory: how Facebook fuels far-right profit • The Guardian

Christopher Knaus, Michael McGowan and Nick Evershed:

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Ron Devito was tapping away on his laptop to the 20,000 followers of his pro-Trump Facebook page, Making America 1st, when he received a similar message, this time from someone using the name Tehila.

“She pitched to me that she was a good editor, she could provide some good content to increase likes and views on the page,” Devito told the Guardian. “Could I just give her a chance and let her post her stuff, right? So I figured, ‘What the heck, give it a shot’.”

Villereal and Devito weren’t the only ones. Over the past two years, a group of mysterious Israel-based accounts has delivered similar messages to the heads of at least 19 other far-right Facebook pages across the US, Australia, the UK, Canada, Austria, Israel and Nigeria.

A Guardian investigation can reveal those messages were part of a covert plot to control some of Facebook’s largest far-right pages, including one linked to a rightwing terror group, and create a commercial enterprise that harvests Islamophobic hate for profit.

This group is now using its 21-page network to churn out more than 1,000 coordinated faked news posts per week to more than 1 million followers, funnelling audiences to a cluster of 10 ad-heavy websites and milking the traffic for profit.

The posts stoke deep hatred of Islam across the western world and influence politics in Australia, Canada, the UK and the US by amplifying far-right parties such as Australia’s One Nation and vilifying Muslim politicians such as the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, and the US congresswoman Ilhan Omar.

The network has also targeted leftwing politicians at critical points in national election campaigns. It posted false stories claiming the UK Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, said Jews were “the source of global terrorism” and accused the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, of allowing “Isis to invade Canada”.

The revelations show Facebook has failed to stop clandestine actors from using its platform to run coordinated disinformation and hate campaigns.

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Gee, ya think? But this is terrific work. And of course Facebook, once told about the pages, takes them down and makes pompous noises about violations of its policies.
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Beijing orders state offices to replace foreign PCs and software • Financial Times

Yuan Yang and Nian Liu:

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Beijing has ordered all government offices and public institutions to remove foreign computer equipment and software within three years, in a potential blow to the likes of HP, Dell and Microsoft.

The directive is the first publicly known instruction with specific targets given to Chinese buyers to switch to domestic technology vendors, and echoes efforts by the Trump administration to curb the use of Chinese technology in the US and its allies.

The move is part of a broader campaign to increase China’s reliance on home-made technologies, and is likely to fuel concerns of “decoupling”, with supply chains between the US and China being severed.

…Analysts at China Securities, a broker, estimate that 20m to 30m pieces of hardware will need to be swapped out as a result of the Chinese directive, with large-scale replacement beginning next year. They added that the substitutions would take place at a pace of 30% in 2020, 50% in 2021 and 20% the year after, earning the policy the nickname “3-5-2”.

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I think Lenovo is going to be very, very happy about this.
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Thieves of experience: On the rise of surveillance capitalism • ROUGH TYPE

Nick Carr, reviewing Shoshana Zuboff’s book “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism”:

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Zuboff opens her book with a look back at a prescient project from the year 2000 on the future of home automation by a group of Georgia Tech computer scientists. Anticipating the arrival of “smart homes,” the scholars described how a mesh of environmental and wearable sensors, linked wirelessly to computers, would allow all sorts of domestic routines, from the dimming of bedroom lights to the dispensing of medications to the entertaining of children, to be programmed to suit a house’s occupants.

Essential to the effort would be the processing of intimate data on people’s habits, predilections, and health. Taking it for granted that such information should remain private, the researchers envisaged a leak-proof “closed loop” system that would keep the data within the home, under the purview and control of the homeowner. The project, Zuboff explains, reveals the assumptions about “datafication” that prevailed at the time: “(1) that it must be the individual alone who decides what experience is rendered as data, (2) that the purpose of the data is to enrich the individual’s life, and (3) that the individual is the sole arbiter of how the data are put to use.”

What’s most remarkable about the birth of surveillance capitalism is the speed and audacity with which Google overturned social conventions and norms about data and privacy. Without permission, without compensation, and with little in the way of resistance, the company seized and declared ownership over everyone’s information. It turned the details of the lives of millions and then billions of people into its own property. The companies that followed Google presumed that they too had an unfettered right to collect, parse, and sell personal data in pretty much any way they pleased. In the smart homes being built today, it’s understood that any and all data will be beamed up to corporate clouds.

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As pointed out, it’s a neat three-card monte where you don’t even realise it’s happening.
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Apple’s ad-targeting crackdown shakes up ad market • The Information

Tom Dotan:

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Since Apple introduced what it calls its Intelligent Tracking Prevention feature in September 2017, and with subsequent updates last year, advertisers have largely lost the ability to target people on Safari based on their browsing habits with cookies, the most commonly used technology for tracking. One result: The cost of reaching Safari users has fallen over 60% in the past two years, according to data from ad tech firm Rubicon Project. Meanwhile ad prices on Google’s Chrome browser have risen slightly. 

That reflects the fact that advertisers pay more money for ads that can be targeted at people with specific demographics and interests. “The allure of a Safari user in an auction has plummeted,” said Rubicon Project CEO Michael Barrett. “There’s no easy ability to ID a user.”

This shift is significant because iPhone owners tend to be more affluent and therefore more attractive to advertisers. Moreover, Safari makes up 53% of the mobile browser market in the U.S., according to web analytics service Statscounter. Only about 9% of Safari users on an iPhone allow outside companies to track where they go on the web, according to Nativo, which sells software for online ad selling. It’s a similar story on desktop, although Safari has only about 13% of the desktop browser market. In comparison, 79% of people who use Google’s Chrome browser allow advertisers to track their browsing habits on mobile devices through cookies.

…ad tech firms that specialize in targeted ad sales, have been affected. Criteo, a publicly traded ad tech company, said Apple’s introduction of ITP cost it $25m in revenue in the fourth quarter of 2017, or 9% of the total, excluding the cost of acquiring traffic. A Criteo spokeswoman said that by making the ad-blocking feature automatic in Safari, Apple “does not truly promote choice for the users of its browser.”

The spokeswoman said ITP had continued to affect Criteo’s business since 2017, which she said was the case with the rest of the ad industry.

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Hilarious quote from Criteo. Of course everyone wants to make more money for Criteo. How dare they not?
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RBS accused of writing fake reviews of its new banking app Bó • Daily Telegraph

James Cook:

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The Royal Bank of Scotland has been accused of writing fake reviews for its new banking app Bó before it was officially available to download.

A series of five-star reviews of the app published months ahead of Bó’s launch on Nov 27 praised features such as its notifications and design.

Another positive review, published on the day of the app’s release, was written by an account which has the same name as an RBS employee.

NatWest owner RBS began development of Bó after abandoning an attempt to acquire fast-growing banking start-up Monzo several years ago.

Three recent reviews of the app on Apple’s store accuse RBS of planting fakes. One reviewer wrote: “Was keen to test this out but concerned by the mass of five-star reviews parroting the marketing materials.”

A spokesman for RBS said more than 2,800 people signed up to Bó as part of a pilot phase, which included staff from across the bank.

He added: “Feedback from these customers shows Bó has helped testers take control of their spending – which is why we built it.”

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Uh huh, sure, Jan. (Also what Shingy madness is it to call your app “Bo”? I’m not going to bother with the accent.) The average review score is quickly moving down – quite a few one-stars there, and plenty complaining that it doesn’t have biometric authentication, even though that’s built into every iPhone since 2013.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

14 thoughts on “Start Up No.1206: Amazon’s Ring cameras mapped, hidden in hashtags, China dumping US PCs, Bo de-selection?, and more

  1. It’s cool to see that for the first time, a Redmi Note is *not* the by-far recommended “sensible” phone: https://www.gsmarena.com/xiaomi_redmi_note_8t-review-2044p6.php

    A Realme 5 Pro is, though by not much – not sure I dare recommend it to others w/o having dogfed it, especially its ColorOS Android variant which seems less rich and even had translation issues last time I checked. Even Samsung has something not utterly ridiculous in that space now.
    I’m not sure I can live w/o a notification LED (missing on the Redmi, I think the Realme has it), it takes some configuring but once that done it lets you never miss priority stuff (such as a text from mom asking for a recipe… that was yesterday, the builders are getting oatmeal cookies today ^^), and w/o having to constantly check your notifications.
    It’s been almost 2 yrs since I started switching a massive amount of people to Redmi, Note especially. I’m very curious to see if they’ll move up or replace at the same level. First up was 12 yo nephew and he wanted a move up combining xmas and bday into a $300 Mi 9 Lite… he’s a teen though, logic doesn’t apply (except he insisted on an SD slot… kid knows being abroad or in the back country w/o data requires preparation ^^) only peer pressure, his private school is mostly iPhones. Hopefully he’s stopped playing soccer with his phone, which is how he broke his Note 4X… We’ve got worse problems than Sergei and Larry in a hot tub… ;-p

      • Just imagine yourself in a world where phones are 1mm thicker but can be unscrewed open, batteries and screens can be taken out and user-replaced for a nominal parts cost ($15ish batteries, $30-100 screens).
        It used to be like this, actually persisted for a while after Apple started glueing+molding things shut, then cut off the parts supply, then cut off the tools+schematics supplies, then enforced warnings/failures for replacement parts…
        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with me. You ?

      • Explain what’s preventing every other smartphone company in the world from making those phones as you describe.
        Then explain how exactly Apple forced every other company to do it, which is your implication. Alternatively, you could examine the hypothesis that Apple pointed out a design path that users prefer, and that other companies followed that path because it’s a customer preference. In other words: Apple unlocked a path to more sales through customer desire, and others have followed it.

      • You’re repeatedly accusing me of being biased and insulting, yet you’re repeatedly re-arranging facts and putting words in my mouth as you react to my criticism of Apple. To a degree I’m wondering who is confusing an OEM for god (an accusation you’ve leveled at me too).

        First, Apple is not “preventing every other company” from doing repairable handsets, see Fairphone, and some of the niche rugged handsets. I’m surprised you don’t know that or choose to forget it. The situation is better for PCs, in which Apple was never as influential. Apple is making that uncool, see Apple’s PR budget and leverage vs Fairphone’s and iFixIt.

        Second, you’re abusively putting words in my mouth, I never said forced customers. I’d go with convinced, the same way Trump convinced people to elect him and the Kardashians convinced people to watch their show. Then leveraged their success from some important/justified issues (making IT easy + sexy, f*ing the establishment back and fear of the future, making stardom accessible) into different, secondary, overlooked areas with a view to personal (/corporate) gain.

        Are you saying Apple was just a reluctant follower, not an energetic driving force, towards making IT cute but fragile and expensive to repair and ownership of it a nickel-and-diming (and hundreds-of-dollar’ing) bonanza ? And remarkably good at that ? And utterly uninterested in educating customers into making smart, sensible, sustainable choices vs getting locked in to fashionable but fragile and expensive to repair and own devices ? What Apple is doing is making utter sense… for Apple. Customers though, are being mesmerized into a situation that’s hurting them. And my main issue is not so much with Apple going for what’s good for Apple, but with the media being so quiet about the side effects and secondary issues (clue Apple’s very active media-controlling operation… those review devices and exclusive interviews come at a price).

        I’d have a lot fewer issues with Apple if their stuff was reasonably priced and reasonably sturdy and reasonably repairable (reasonably open would be an important checkmark too… ). Notice how any of that doesn’t have to destroy the rest of Apple’s value proposition, just their ability to extract rent. Alas Apple’s stuff is none of those things, and Apple is working as hard as they can to keep it that way and make it more so. Are you unaware of that, or aware but indifferent even supportive ?

      • What you haven’t explained, in your (gotta say, really quite whiny) response, is why so many other companies have followed Apple’s lead in gluing/moulding/etc devices. Google’s Pixel 3a: 6/10 repairability on iFixit. Google Pixel 4: 4/10. EVIL APPLE HOW DID YOU MAKE THAT HAPPEN. Samsung Galaxy S9: 4/10. Galaxy S10: 3/10. EVIL APPLE YOU MUST BE INFILTRATING THEIR FACTORIES HOW CAN IT BE.
        Or maybe these are just really, really complex devices, and customers *throughout the market* have shown absolutely no inclination to go for thicker, heavier phones just because they’re more repairable. It’s a sad indictment of us, the human race, but I link to sad indictments all the time. Blaming it on Apple seems like a really quite pathological form of what psychologists call projection. You might want to look it up: reflection on projection is time well spent.

      • I think I have explained it, and I think the whine is in the eye of the beholder (unless pointing out factual errors and misrepresentation is whining). I can re-hash it:
        1- Apple was pretty much the first (I’d argue Palm was at least very close) to make general-public IT, ie stuff that emphasized easy+sexy over specs and functionality. That’s a Good Thing ™, IT was bound to break out of the nerd/pro niches and incumbents weren’t grasping that big picture or unwilling to act boldly on it.
        2- Out of that, they got a huge and well-deserved commercial success.
        3- They leveraged that into control of the now-key fashion element of Mobiles and (to a more limited extent) consumer IT, both via their talent at making popular devices and their ruthless way to control the media. No other OEM had/has the $$ and credibility and PR levers to push a different message, not even a different device. It took a while for Samsung to abandon removable batteries and screws, but in the end they followed in that regrettable direction.
        4- They’re using that control to create ever more rents instead of educating the public about the value of open, repairable, cheap to buy and own stuff. That’s the Very Bad Thing ™.

        I’m sure the public would need to be educated (possibly counseled ?) about the value of 1mm to get repairability and sustainability. A nice OEM would do it (they have no problem about telling us we’re holding it wrong, having humongous unsightly camera bumps, showing 5G icons for 4G…). The media should be doing it. “Leaders used to be exemplary”.

        Is your argument that
        a) Apple isn’t doing that multifaceted rent and lock-in and nickel-and-dime seeking ? Including a lot of “bad” (unsustainable,…) side effects ?
        b) that’s it’s a Good Thing ?
        c) that Apple and/or especially the media have no responsibility to point out those issues and consequences ?
        d) that the general public should spontaneously be aware and motivated about those issues ? Over looking cool ?
        e) that other OEMs don’t have the same perverse incentives as Apple, and/or much more limited PR (=educational) power ? Again, I’m focusing on Apple because of their power and aura, I’m not saying any other OEM is better (they aren’t). But nobody worships them and gives them passes on everything the way they do for Apple. Xiaomi isn’t any better (actually, a bit: more repairable, non-censoring, less closed) , but at least it’s cheap.

        I agree that the general public spontaneously goes for easy+sexy. I’m arguing that’s *now* a Bad Thing, and that we should be looking past that now that it’s a given, and move on to cost and sustainability (and long-term consequences for soft stuff such as censorship).

        Also… I’m the one who mentioned projection last week. I’m a bit unclear why you’re re-heating it now, frankly. Also, going all caps is… weird ?

      • “No other OEM had/has the $$ and credibility and PR levers to push a different message, not even a different device. It took a while for Samsung to abandon removable batteries and screws, but in the end they followed in that regrettable direction.”

        This really is appallingly bad logic. Samsung is the biggest seller of mobile phones in the world. Android has 85% of world sales. You’re seriously suggesting that Apple, by making some of the most expensive phones in the world, somehow obliged all the other OEMs to follow in its footsteps? That’s delusional.

        Try instead starting from the point of view that OEMs do things that reduce their costs and increase their sales. That they act independently. So: do they care about aftermarket serviceability? Probably not – by the time a phone needs that sort of attention (even with a cracked display) it has probably earned out for them. Why would they want to offer a repairable phone? That just means people are going to send it back to them by one means or another, wanting it repaired, which is labour-intensive but not very profitable compared to designing and selling the next phone. (You’ve also got it back to front: Xiaomi’s designs aren’t “more repairable”. They’re “more easily assembled”, which happens to also make them more repairable. You’ve swallowed iFixit’s world view without realising it.)

        The clothheaded thinking that “OEMs will really want to make phones that lots of people can repair, and it’s only evil Apple making shiny things that stop them” is of the same ilk that thought that modular phones would be a huge hit: after all, shouldn’t everyone want a phone they can assemble for themselves? (It’s just the flip side of “everyone should want a phone they can disassemble for themselves.”) I spent a long time trying to explain to people who thought that that they were wrong too, and only after Google dumped the idea and LG failed with it multiple times did they go quiet – though I expect some of them think that was somehow down to Apple too. After all, everything’s Apple’s fault if you say it loudly enough and long enough, isn’t it?

      • I can’t believe that, after accusing me so many times of whataboutism, you’d be taking that totally whataboutist angle (which you were already doing with the caps on your previous post, I was getting ready to comment on that and now you’re really hammering it in).

        Again (and again, and again, and again, and again.. must be the 30th time !) I’m not saying other OEMs are any better (well slightly etc…). I’m saying Apple a) is at the forefront of that b) would have the clout to influence it (probably the only OEM to have that) but c) chooses not to actually quite the opposite and d) gets a total pass on that from almost all quarters probably partly out of ignorance/negligence/ego investment and partly out of perverse incentives to never criticize Apple.

        You haven’t answered my series of questions ? Should we just give up, consumers and general and us 2 in particular (though only one of us is in the media) on those key issues ?

        Remember how MS was nice and helpful at the beginning (PCs and clones, MSX was OK, MSDOS and Windows were fine, Word Excel PPpoint even Access and Works were quite the step forward even Word/DOS…) and then got both stale (less innovative) and evil (leveraging their strong points into obliterating competition and moving into adjacent businesses) ? Apple is really doing the same thing (history, bla-bla) but on a wider scale and in a smarter way. They want control and a cut of all peripherals, apps, repairs, media, services, now even money spent… That’s a lot, and extremely dangerous, I’d say outright evil but I’m a deranged idiot (to say that about Apple; saying it about MS is smart and reasonable ^^). That much power/rent/lock-in in the hands of a private corp and though them of governments ?

        (The Android side is slightly less bad mostly because Google was rushed and didn’t have time to think things through and went “modular” (in the business, not just technical, sense), so they’re less evil only by accident and are working hard to make up for that. That’s not my point today, but I’m making it just in case you try to whatabout it again.)

      • Once more: why do you persist in this bizarre belief that Android OEMs are making phones that are “harder to repair” because they want to copy Apple? Why not take the Copernican view that actually they’re acting independently in their own best interests and that that leads them to designs which aren’t easy to fix, as I explained above?

        Quit rambling – so much of your response is just chaff – and just answer the question. Even just to yourself. Sit down and pretend you’re an OEM and see what choices you’d make.

      • Again, you don’t answer my questions and you whatabout them.

        You keep dismissing my points but not addressing them. I’m an insulting idiot bigot with chaff theses, fine. Prove it ? Are you arguing Apple is not pushing for silly(*) but shiny HW designs, cultivating lock-in and rent-seeking to an unprecedented degree, using and controlling PR with best-in-class ruthlessness ? In the end not only abusing but cultivating customers’ cluelessness, with great help from the media ?
        The only way in which other OEMs are better is that they are weaker on all those points, so do less damage. Their intent is the same (same as most 3rd-rate Instagrammers will follow whatever trends the Kardashians launch, yet are the main culprits the throngs of also-rans, or the Ks ?) , Apple is just by far the most successful (due to both their mindshare and their unique status as both HW maker and ecosystem custodian) and as such deserves more scrutiny. I don’t know how many times I can paraphrase that, this is the 31st. All companies are amoral and just want to make money. Incl. Apple.

        Again, we need leaders that are exemplary, not greedy. Apple is greedy to an unprecedented degree, with unprecedented planning.

        (*) silly as in fragile, hard to service, resources-hungry.

        PS: Someone needs to draw an “Apple’s bicycle for the mind, 2020”. The bike is $1,000, can only use Apple-branded or -approved tires, saddles…, only be repaired at Apple shops, only take you to approved spots, gets a cut of every purchase you make while on it. Is this an apt description ? Is it still a bicycle ? It’s thin to the point of bendy and sparkling though ;-p

      • Again, you don’t answer my questions and you whatabout them.

        Your questions mostly aren’t worth answering, because they’re based on a fantasy world in which OEMs have no agency and actively conspire against their customers to produce products that mimic Apple’s because Apple is evil and has no morals, and Google is our last hope, Obi-wan. Your suppositions are simply not based in the harsh commercial reality that smartphone OEMs live in. When I point this out, you say I’m “whatabouting”, which suggests you don’t understand the term. If I say “OEMs aren’t doing this because of Apple, they’re doing it because it improves their sales and profits”, that isn’t the same as saying “The Syrian government has done bad things, but what about the bad things Isis did?” The latter is a diversion. The former is a reframing of the situation that is congruent with reality.

        When Apple was making phones with smaller screens, OEMs didn’t wait for it to make large screens; they offered them themselves. When Apple wasn’t doing super-high-res screens, OEMs didn’t wait for it; they offered them themselves. When Apple wasn’t offering NFC, Android OEMs (and Nokia Windows Phones) did. Apple hasn’t forced Android OEMs to make phones less repairable, and the flaw in your argument is that you can’t demonstrate any way in which that mechanism could happen except by your wild handwaving about “using and controlling PR with best-in-class ruthlessness”. Again, this is fantasy. People can get their iPhones fixed – there are outlets all over the place offering screen repair, etc. People can get their Android OEM phones fixed – if the OEM makes the parts available.

        I’m so bored with your wild fantasies about global control of all that happens in tech by Apple. It’s so far removed from reality that I think you should take a good long break from commenting on websites, because it really isn’t helping anyone. Let me know if you need me to help you stop here.

      • “Your questions mostly aren’t worth answering”

        That’s a cop-out. Are my points untrue ? Irrelevant ? If you can’t answer them, just say so.

        “, because they’re based on a fantasy world in which OEMs have no agency and actively conspire against their customers to produce products that mimic Apple’s because Apple is evil and has no morals, and Google is our last hope, Obi-wan. ”

        You keep trying to spin me into a Google lover, I am not, I have repeatedly said and proven so, at this point you’re showing utter bad faith. I think ad-funded IT has its place as ad-funded media does, no more, no less. I do think Google is less noxious than Apple, though still noxious, because they didn’t get a chance to plan ahead much.

        Most OEMs have little agency now that consumer IT is driven by fashion a fair bit.

        You think Apple has morals ? You think any company has morals ? Show me a single large public one that hasn’t committed a crime with knowledge of management. I’m just pointing out Apple is the same, which seems to be an unbearable thought ?

        “Your suppositions are simply not based in the harsh commercial reality that smartphone OEMs live in. When I point this out, you say I’m “whatabouting”, which suggests you don’t understand the term. If I say “OEMs aren’t doing this because of Apple, they’re doing it because it improves their sales and profits”, that isn’t the same as saying “The Syrian government has done bad things, but what about the bad things Isis did?” The latter is a diversion. The former is a reframing of the situation that is congruent with reality.”

        Except you said none of this, you said “BUT GOOGLE IS DOING IT TOO” , and with extra caps, as if Google as an OEM was meaningful and as if it was an acceptable way to express oneself.
        Also, my point is not whether it improves their sales and profit (did you just admit that’s why Apple is doing it, too ? Maybe take a minute to think it’s why they’re doing all the rest too ?), but that it goes counter to customer interests, environmental concerns, costs of ownership, and that if companies were good and had morals, they’d spend some effort into selling that. You just showed a second way that companies are amoral (evil is a loaded word, I think they’re accidentally evil, not purposefully evil). That’s your own words.

        “When Apple was making phones with smaller screens, OEMs didn’t wait for it to make large screens; they offered them themselves. When Apple wasn’t doing super-high-res screens, OEMs didn’t wait for it; they offered them themselves. When Apple wasn’t offering NFC, Android OEMs (and Nokia Windows Phones) did. Apple hasn’t forced Android OEMs to make phones less repairable, and the flaw in your argument is that you can’t demonstrate any way in which that mechanism could happen except by your wild handwaving about “using and controlling PR with best-in-class ruthlessness”. Again, this is fantasy. People can get their iPhones fixed – there are outlets all over the place offering screen repair, etc. People can get their Android OEM phones fixed – if the OEM makes the parts available.”

        Actually, some people can’t get their phone fixed because Apple after-sales is rather bad, and ever more parts are locked and can’t be replaceable by independent shops. Louis Rossman has several videos about the issue. Also, Apple after-sales not only is bad at fixing, but also to a surprising degree bad at diagnosing issues, recommending a new buy when a fix is <$50 see that CNBC piece. Also, it is very expensive.
        Android isn't much better, except at the low-end where assembly is less complicated and parts are easy and cheap to get. BTW, The OEM doesn't have to make the parts available, its suppliers can do so directly. Didn't you know that ?
        You're right OEMs do have some agency. But not that much. Just notice how doing a metal unibody phone is was labeled aping Apple's design (introduced by an HTC), TouchID was "invented by Apple", people think the Apple loudspeakers are class-leading when they see the brand, but not when they don't, etc…

        "I’m so bored with your wild fantasies about global control of all that happens in tech by Apple. It’s so far removed from reality that I think you should take a good long break from commenting on websites, because it really isn’t helping anyone. Let me know if you need me to help you stop here."

        I never ever said Apple controls everything that happens in tech. I'm saying they have a huge influence especially in mobile (I specifically said they have less influence in legacy PC, so stop, again, misrepresenting what I say, thanks.), and, and that's the key part, are using it to maximize profits, lock-in and rents, not make products that are better on a number of non profit-generating metrics (resilient, repairable, open to aternative parts/contents/services…) let alone educate users on those important topics. You seem utterly unwilling, or unable, to engage on that issue. Major cognitive dissonance ?

        Maybe if I got cogent answers instead of cop-outs and thinly-veiled invective… The questions still stand. Sorry Apple isn't my god.

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