Start Up No.1327: Apple readies ARM Macs, the truth about Trump’s photo op, Microsoft’s AI screws up, 2020’s worst jargon, and more

Germany is mandating that electric cars can charge wherever there’s a petrol station. Neat idea. CC-licensed photo by Paul Krueger on Flickr.

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A selection of 10 links for you. A person of interest. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Bloomberg: Apple to announce its first ARM Mac chips at WWDC, as it starts transition away from Intel • 9to5Mac

Benjamin Mayo:


Apple is reportedly going to announce its transition from Intel to ARM chips for its line of Macs at WWDC, according to Bloomberg. The event kicks off on June 22nd (hosted virtually this year), and is the usual venue where Apple announces its big platform shifts. This year, we are expecting the unveiling of iOS 14, macOS 10.16, watchOS 7 and more.

Apple has had great success using custom A-series silicon for its iPhones and iPads, with its iOS devices offering market-leading performance. It is now looking to achieve a similar feat with its laptops and — later — desktop Macs. Bloomberg says Apple plans to announce the transition this month, which will give time for Mac developers to get their apps ready when the first Apple ARM Mac ships in 2021.

Bloomberg previously reported that Apple is readying a 12-core ARM chip of its own custom design. The chip would run on a 5 nanometer fabrication process and beat the performance of the current Intel lineup of MacBook Airs.

Moving from Intel to ARM should improve performance and battery efficiency, whilst also costing Apple less money per unit. Today’s Bloomberg report says that Apple’s silicon teams have observed marked gains in GPU and artificial intelligence computational performance.

The anonymous Twitter account @L0vetodream previously suggested that Apple would revive the 12-inch MacBook within the next year or so, and it would run on an ARM chip architecture.


Don’t expect Apple to announce its first ARM device running macOS (well, the first since 2005) at WWDC; next year, more likely. But would Apple really want to segment its laptop line again, when it had just got it into sensible shape? Then again, those would be super-fast, super-long-lived machines… with teething problems, an Minimum Viable Product. A bit like the original MacBook Air.
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Cox slows Internet speeds in entire neighborhoods to punish any heavy users • Ars Technica

Jon Brodkin:


Cox, a cable company with about 5.2 million broadband customers in the United States, has been sending notices to some heavy Internet users warning them to use less data and notifying them of neighborhood-wide speed decreases. In the case we will describe in this article, a gigabit customer who was paying $50 extra per month for unlimited data was flagged by Cox because he was using 8TB to 12TB a month.

Cox responded by lowering the upload speeds on the gigabit-download plan from 35Mbps to 10Mbps for the customer’s whole neighborhood. Cox confirmed to Ars that it has imposed neighborhood-wide slowdowns in multiple neighborhoods in cases like this one but didn’t say how many excessive users are enough to trigger a speed decrease.

Mike, a Cox customer from Gainesville, Florida, pays $150 a month, including $100 for 1Gbps download speeds and 35Mbps upload speeds, and another $50 for “unlimited data” so that he can go over Cox’s 1TB data cap. Mike told Ars via email that most of his 8TB+ monthly use consists of scheduled device backups and “data sharing via various (encrypted) information-sharing protocols,” such as peer-to-peer networks, between 1am and 8am. (We agreed to publish Mike’s first name only but reviewed his bills and confirmed the basic details of his account with Cox.)

Generally speaking, data usage for most households declines significantly during those 1am-8am overnight hours, so a robustly built broadband network should be able to handle the traffic. In any case, Mike couldn’t use more than 35Mbps for uploads at any given time because that’s the limit Cox always imposed on its gigabit-download cable plan. Mike said his household’s daytime and evening use is more like a typical Internet user’s, with work-from-home activities during the day and streaming video in high-definition during the evening.


Gee, according to Ajit Pai, who one day short of two years ago rolled back the regulations that would prevent this, the market will sort it out. (This activity would have breached the 2015 net neutrality order.) There is so much that needs to be fixed starting next year.
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Video timeline of Trump’s St. John’s church photo op and Lafayette Square crackdown • The Washington Post

Dalton Bennett, Sarah Cahlan, Aaron C. Davis and Joyce Lee:


At about 6:30 p.m., just north of the White House, federal police in riot gear fired gas canisters and used grenades containing rubber pellets to scatter largely peaceful demonstrators. Their actions cleared the way for the president, surrounded by the nation’s top law enforcement and military leaders, to walk to the historic St. John’s Church for a three-minute photo op.

Drawing on footage captured from dozens of cameras, as well as police radio communications and other records, The Washington Post reconstructed the events of this latest remarkable hour of Trump’s presidency, including of the roles of the agencies involved and the tactics and weaponry they used.

Watch the reconstruction above to see how it unfolded.


This is utterly stunning: a montage video showing who was where, when, and what they did. It would have been impossible before the era of ubiquitous smartphones, and also overhead photos. This puts all the snatched videos you’ll have seen from that day when Trump did his absurd photo-op into context: the infringement of the First Amendment rights of the protesters (“the right to peaceably assemble”), the use of tear gas (confirmed), the confusion. The use in the video of overhead “searchlight” icons to show where the smartphone footage is located, and where it’s pointing, is amazing too – clearly borrowing from military videogames.
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Microsoft’s robot editor confuses mixed-race Little Mix singers • The Guardian

Jim Waterson:


Microsoft’s decision to replace human journalists with robots has backfired, after the tech company’s artificial intelligence software illustrated a news story about racism with a photo of the wrong mixed-race member of the band Little Mix.

A week after the Guardian revealed plans to fire the human editors who run and replace them with Microsoft’s artificial intelligence code, an early rollout of the software resulted in a story about the singer Jade Thirlwall’s personal reflections on racism being illustrated with a picture of her fellow band member Leigh-Anne Pinnock.

Thirlwall, who attended a recent Black Lives Matter protest in London, criticised MSN on Friday, saying she was sick of “ignorant” media making such mistakes.

…In advance of the publication of this article, staff at MSN were told to expect a negative article in the Guardian about alleged racist bias in the artificial intelligence software that will soon take their jobs.

Because they are unable to stop the new robot editor selecting stories from external news sites such as the Guardian, the remaining human staff have been told to stay alert and delete a version of this article if the robot decides it is of interest and automatically publishes it on They have also been warned that even if they delete it, the robot editor may overrule them and attempt to publish it again.


So, to sum up: AI gets it wrong, human affected points it out, human at MSN gets huffy, robot given carte blanche to carry on racism-ing. And all this before Microsoft has even fired the humans. That strange sound is Microsoft Tay laughing.
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Germany will require all petrol stations to provide electric car charging • Reuters

Christoph Steitz and Edward Taylor:


Germany said it will oblige all petrol stations to offer electric car charging to help remove refuelling concerns and boost consumer demand for the vehicles as part of its €130bn ($146bn) economic recovery plan.

The move could provide a significant boost to electric vehicle demand along with the broader stimulus plan which included taxes to penalise ownership of large polluting combustion-engined sports utility vehicles and a €6,000 subsidy towards the cost of an electric vehicle.

Germany’s announcement follows a French plan to boost electric car sales announced last week by President Macron.

“It’s a very clear commitment to battery-powered vehicles and establishes electric mobility as a technology of the future,” energy storage specialist The Mobility House, whose investors include Daimler (DAIGn.DE) and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi alliance, said.

“Internationally this puts Germany in the leading group of battery electric vehicle support.”


Now that’s a totally sensible move. OK, so you might have to spend longer at the petrol station than most people do. But at least you’d be able to find a charging point easily, which is one of the biggest concerns about driving an electric car.
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Hydroxychloroquine farce has tragic consequences • The Japan Times

Lionel Laurent:


This [screw-up in the Lancet with the Surgisphere data] is a wake-up call for how the public, the media and the scientific community evaluate research, even the gold standard of peer-reviewed papers. In theory, it should be hard to game the system that underpins journals, which ask relevant experts to confidentially review papers ahead of publication. But, in practice, there are problems.

Over the years, researchers have pointed to a lack of consistency and objectivity in responses by peers; a 2012 study found that when papers have been retracted there was often some kind of misconduct involved, including suspected or confirmed fraud. The lack of credit and scientific glory involved in reviewing a paper, along with the knowledge that other people will analyze the study too, might be hurting the quality of gate-keeping.

Whatever flaws already existed in scientific research have been supercharged by the pandemic. Hurried trials have sacrificed rigor for speed, and there has been a “rush to publish” the results in scientific journals, according to Jeffrey Aronson, clinical pharmacologist at the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine at Oxford University. In the case of hydroxychloroquine, the bias toward getting any kind of information out has led to hastily drawn conclusions on both its effectiveness and its dangers in treating COVID-19. That’s meant that the political and social-media fights over the drug have preceded clear results.

…More caution, more rigor and more tightening of the peer-review system would be positive consequences of this debacle. But so much time has been lost already. The danger now is that if a severe flare-up in infections were to strike, we would still lack clear evidence of any existing, cheap treatment — and we would also have frittered away the public trust needed to successfully impose measures such as lockdowns or quarantines. “Follow the science” won’t be an effective rallying cry much longer.


“In practice, there are problems” is quite the understatement.
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IBM CEO’s letter to Congress on racial justice reform • THINKPolicy Blog

IBM CEO Arvind Krishna:


IBM no longer offers general purpose IBM facial recognition or analysis software. IBM firmly opposes and will not condone uses of any technology, including facial recognition technology offered by other vendors, for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms, or any purpose which is not consistent with our values and Principles of Trust and Transparency. We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies.

Artificial Intelligence is a powerful tool that can help law enforcement keep citizens safe. But vendors and users of Al systems have a shared responsibility to ensure that Al is tested for bias, particularity when used in law enforcement, and that such bias testing is audited and reported.
Finally, national policy also should encourage and advance uses of technology that bring greater transparency and accountability to policing, such as body cameras and modern data analytics techniques.


There is some suspicion around the precise wording of this letter: “IBM no longer offers general purpose…” doesn’t exclude “we offer custom-designed facial recognition…” (because you can certainly read the sentence like that). Then again, the other sentences are pretty clear. At the start of this year, I thought FRT was going to be the Big Thing of 2020; now it doesn’t feel so guaranteed.
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The BUZZSAW AWARDS 2020 • Drills or Holes?

Hamish Thompson and assorted folks run the Buzzsaw: “Paste a press release or speech into the Buzzsaw and the document is checked against a database of thousands of buzzwords and clichés. The document is returned with all matches struck through in red:. Here are just the first ten of their most-hated phrases for 2020:


The 2020 Buzzsaw Hall of Shame (Comments below are supplied by judges).

‘Curated’. Judge’s comment: “A word that has been brutalised by Hipster culture.  Google practically anything – potatoes, burgers, you name it – and there’ll be a curated list somewhere in the world.  To make it worse, lists are often ‘carefully curated’, which is tautologous.”
• ‘Content’. Judge’s comment: “Second only to the vacuum of space as the emptiest thing in the universe.  It’s like calling literature or journalism ‘words’.  It’s the high watermark in the commoditisation of writing.”
• ‘Disambiguate’. Judge’s comment: “A word that rather cleverly obscures the thing it seeks to clarify.  Like spraying mud on windows to clean them.”
• ‘Human Capital’. Judge’s comment: “The latest in the personnel department’s march towards balance sheet.”
• ‘The new normal’.  Judge’s comment: “Unfortunately it is catching on.  I get hundreds of emails a week that reference this phrase.”
• ‘In the time of Covid’. Judge’s comment: “Gabriel Garcia Marquez it ain’t.”
• ‘Reach out’.  Judge’s comment: “My standard response is ‘back off’.”
• ‘Circle back’.  Judge’s comment: “Sigh. Incoming Halley’s Comet press release.”
• ‘Ideation’.  Judge’s comment: “A bold attempt to make a bad idea sound better than it is by diverting our attention.”
• ‘Bake’. Judge’s comment: “Please stop using this as a noun.  It is a loaf or a cake.  It is not a bake.”


There are some even worse ones too.
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Google Pixel sales in 2019 were best ever for the line • Android Authority

C Scott Brown:


A few weeks ago, news broke that Google was allegedly disappointed with the Google Pixel 4, even prior to that device’s launch. However disappointing it may have been, it doesn’t appear to have stopped Google Pixel sales from hitting a record high in 2019.

According to third-party analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC), Google Pixel sales hit 7.2 million units in 2019. Although the numbers don’t get broken down by device, it’s likely most of those sales come from the two 2019 phones launched — the Google Pixel 3a and Google Pixel 4. At least some of the shipments are probably made up of Google Pixel 3 sales, too.

However, it’s estimated that the Google Pixel 4 only sold around 2 million units over its first six months, which would mean a portion of that number wouldn’t count towards the 2019 total. Therefore, it’s basically a guarantee that the bulk of the Google Pixel sales in 2019 came from the Pixel 3a line.


As he points out, that total is tiny compared to Huawei’s 230 million shipped last year. (It’s about 3% of that figure; even less compared to Samsung.) The Pixel begins to look more like a vanity project than a serious scheme to sell smartphones.
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Pixel Buds 2 have issues and Google is aware of them • Android Authority

Dave LeClair:


The Google Pixel Buds 2 are a perfectly reliable pair of wireless earbuds, but they’re not without problems. In fact, based on user reports, they have a lot of issues. Thankfully, it seems as though Google is more than aware of the issues many users are facing, and the company intends to fix them.


Now, not to rag on someone, but the writing here is a classic case of “don’t upset the niche readers”. Android Authority readers will, quite certainly, think that all things in Android-land are good, even more so if they come from Google. Thus the Pixel Buds must be praised in the opening sentence, because the first rule of Niche Blog is Don’t Annoy The Readers By Insulting Their Tribe. Hence the Buds 2 are “Perfectly reliable”. Except they aren’t, according to users. Oh, and according to Google as well.

Sure, the NYT gets criticised when a piece slides past an editor. But if anyone calling themselves an editor saw this, they need to learn what the job entails. Google says some fixes will arrive for the Pixel Buds 2 problems in “coming weeks”.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

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