Start Up No.1508: the bear case on Clubhouse, new iPad Pros incoming?, OnePlus shuns Wear OS, Intel snipes at Apple’s M1, and more

Marijuana has been legal in Colorado and Washington state for nearly a decade: so what had that done to crime, price and so on? CC-licensed photo by Cold, Indrid on Flickr.

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A selection of 9 links for you. Enough, surely? I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The buzzy, chatty, out-of-control rise of Clubhouse • WIRED

Steven Levy:


On March 17, 2020—just as Covid drove people into their houses—the beta version of Clubhouse went live, open only to a few of Davison’s and Seth’s friends and family members. When you opened the app, you were thrust into the single conversation room. Everyone could speak. At first, when the app had only about 20 or so people, that room was often empty. Davison had an alert set up on Slack to let him know when someone opened Clubhouse. He’d drop whatever he was doing and pop in to say hi. Even when more people began to join, Davison continued the habit. He and Seth monitored the app constantly. “I hated the idea that someone would come in and have a bad experience and no one would join them,” Davison says. “Rohan would say, ‘Paul, don’t do it. We have to see if it can live on its own.’” It took Davison a few weeks to develop the discipline to not jump in.

By mid-April, the founders were confident they’d created something worthwhile. “It was like an interesting dinner party where you’d see a couple of friends, but then you’d meet new people,” Davison says. They were stunned at its addictiveness. When people came to Clubhouse, they stayed, sometimes for hours. The next day, or even in the middle of the night, they would come back. They invited more people but kept the app small, and most of Clubhouse’s users were from the Davison-Seth orbit of tech entrepreneurs and investors. The intimacy worked, and new users were soon tweeting ecstatic descriptions of what they heard on Clubhouse, increasing demand for invitations and further agitating the non-invitees who had their noses pressed against the Gorilla Glass on their smartphones.

“When there were no conferences, where people were not traveling, people found this a great substitute,” says tech analyst Michael Gartenberg, who joined that summer. Kat Cole, a prominent Atlanta-based businesswoman, was drawn to its spontaneity and the ease with which you could drop in and out of conversations. “It felt a lot like Burning Man in that you just choose your own adventure,” she says. “You never know what camp you’re wandering into.”


A good overview – Levy points to lots of the moderation problems that you’d expect with any fast-growing app. In parallel, though, is this thread from Twitter (on a non-Twitter link on a single page) which gives you the bear case: it’s not possible to keep people interested due to the ephemeral nature of the content.
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Apple nears launch of new iPads after stay-at-home sales boost • Bloomberg

Mark Gurman:


The devices will have an updated processor that is on par with the faster M1 chip in the latest MacBook Air, MacBook Pro and Mac mini. Apple designs these processors itself and typically has them made by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. Apple is also looking to include a Mini-LED screen with at least the larger model, which would be brighter and have improved contrast ratios.

In testing, the new iPad Pros have used a Thunderbolt connector, the same port on the latest Macs with custom Apple processors. The port doesn’t require new chargers, but it would enable connectivity with additional external monitors, hard drives and other peripherals. It’s also faster at syncing data than the USB-C technology used in the current models.

…The iPad Pro was last updated in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, adding a tweaked processor, support for the Magic Keyboard with Trackpad case, and a lidar scanner alongside the camera.

Apple plans to refresh its cheapest iPad aimed at students with a thinner and lighter design later this year, Bloomberg News has reported. It’s also preparing to launch a new iPad mini with a larger screen as early as this year, an increase from the 7.9-inch display used since the first model. The iPad mini was last upgraded in 2019 with support for the Apple Pencil stylus and a faster processor.


OK, but what is the USP of an iPad over an M1 Macbook Air? You’d need to really love touchscreens, wouldn’t you? Anyhow, there are strong rumours of an Apple event on Tuesday March 23.

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The data on legalizing weed • Planet Money, NPR

Greg Rosalsky:


It’s been almost a decade since Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana. That’s given economists and other researchers enough time to study the effects of the policy. Here are some of the most interesting findings:

Legalization didn’t seem to substantially affect crime rates — Proponents of legalizing weed claimed it would reduce violent crimes. Opponents said it would increase violent crimes. A study by the CATO Institute finds, “Overall, violent crime has neither soared nor plummeted in the wake of marijuana legalization.”

Legalization seems to have little or no effect on traffic accidents and fatalities — Opponents of marijuana legalization argued it would wreak havoc on the road. A few studies have found that’s not the case. Economists Benjamin Hansen, Keaton S. Miller & Caroline Weber, for instance, found evidence suggesting it had no effect on trends in traffic fatalities in both Colorado and Washington.

Legalization has barely affected the price of marijuana — Many people believed that marijuana prices would crash after legalization, providing an increased incentive to use it. But a recent study by the CATO institute found prices have barely budged. The price of getting high has stayed high. In California, for example, the price of marijuana actually increased after legalization, before leveling off at about $260 an ounce. Before full legalization, it cost about $250 an ounce.


Has also created lots of jobs, and (weird one) reduced worker compensation costs – because staff use it for pain relief. That stat on crimes might seem surprising, but did anyone really think marijuana was a serious cause of violent crime? Some property crime, perhaps, but violent crime?
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Confirmed: OnePlus Watch won’t run Wear OS • Android Authority

C Scott Brown:


OnePlus has confirmed a few times now that we will see the company’s first smartwatch on March 23. It will launch alongside the highly-anticipated 2021 flagship phones from the brand: the OnePlus 9 series.

Today, though, company CEO Pete Lau confirmed an aspect of the upcoming OnePlus Watch we’ve been wondering about for literally years. In a response to a question from a OnePlus forum member, Lau confirmed the watch’s operating system will be an unnamed RTOS, or “real-time operating system.” This is a tacit confirmation that it will not run on Google’s Wear OS, which has been common speculation.

Here are Lau’s own words: “We chose to go with a smart wear operating system developed based on RTOS because we believe it provides you a smooth and reliable experience while offering a great battery life, covering some of the biggest concerns we’ve been hearing from people looking to buy a smartwatch.”

Lau’s statement means that the OnePlus Watch’s software will probably be quite similar to what we see on watches from companies like Amazfit and its sister brand Zepp. The software on those watches features a very limited selection of apps with literally no third-party app support. However, they usually see great battery life and fast performance, which are things Wear OS doesn’t do well.


When Android Authority is saying that Wear OS has indifferent battery life and lacks performance, you know it’s got a problem.
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Intel puts Apple’s ‘I’m a Mac’ guy into new ads praising PCs – The Verge

Tom Warren:


Intel has hired Apple’s former “I’m a Mac” actor Justin Long to create new ads praising PCs. Long starts each commercial with “Hello I’m a… Justin,” with the typical white background you’d find on Apple’s Mac vs. PC ads from the 2000s. Naturally, the ads focus on Mac vs. PC again, with Long mocking Apple’s Touch Bar, lack of M1 multiple monitor support, and the “gray and grayer” color choices for a MacBook.

One even goes all-in on Apple’s lack of touchscreens in Macs or 2-in-1 support by mocking the fact you have to buy a tablet, keyboard, stylus, and even a dongle to match what’s available on rival Intel-based laptops. Another ad also points out that “no one really games on a Mac.”

The return of Justin Long in Mac vs. PC ads for Intel comes just months after Apple brought back actor John Hodgman to reprise his role as the PC guy from Apple’s “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” ad campaign. While Apple kept its reprisal limited to the company’s keynote to introduce Arm-based M1 MacBooks, Intel has gone a step further and revived this for full commercials.


When Apple did its adverts, from 2006-2009, they were aimed at Microsoft: Apple had just made the switch from PPC to Intel chips, and was still very much the underdog in the computing world.

Intel is pointing to things that Apple doesn’t have (or has but whose need is dubious, in the case of the Touch Bar), but apart from the multiple monitor support (which can be done), all of those things it points to are true about Intel Macs.

These ads aren’t what you do when you’re confident; it’s what you do when you feel threatened. Possibly, as with the internal email saying it wasn’t going to lose out to a lifestyle company, this is more about inciting the troops at Intel.
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Samsung explains why there might not be a Galaxy Note 21 this year • BGR

Chris Smith:


Rumors in late 2020 said that Samsung might abandon the Galaxy Note series, as it’s looking at making significant changes to its operations. Samsung was contemplating adding the S Pen stylus to other devices, including the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold 3. Samsung later confirmed the rumors, and the S21 Ultra does support the stylus.

The S Pen is the only remaining Note feature, as the Galaxy Note is no longer the largest smartphone you can buy. Samsung dismissed rumors that there won’t be a Note 21 phone in stores this year a few months ago. But the Korean giant is now changing tune. There might not be a Galaxy Note 21 this year, but not because the Galaxy S21 Ultra is practically a Note 21 version.

Samsung co-CEO DJ Koh, who previously lead the mobile division, said during the annual shareholders meeting in Seoul that the current chip shortage will pose a severe problem next quarter. Per Bloomberg, that’s where he said that Samsung is considering skipping the introduction of a new Galaxy Note this year.

“There’s a serious imbalance in supply and demand of chips in the IT sector globally,” Koh said. “Despite the difficult environment, our business leaders are meeting partners overseas to solve these problems. It’s hard to say the shortage issue has been solved 100%.”

“Note series is positioned as a high-end model in our business portfolio,” he said. “It could be a burden to unveil two flagship models in a year, so it might be difficult to release Note model in [the second half of 2021]. The timing of Note model launch can be changed, but we seek to release a Note model next year.”


That Samsung is hit by the chip shortage is quite a thing: it’s usually thought of as having the entire stack, from memory chips to displays.
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I was a teenage Twitter hacker: Graham Ivan Clark gets 3-year sentence • Ars Technica

Dan Goodin:


A Florida teenager accused of orchestrating one of last summer’s Twitter hacks—this one used celebrity accounts to make more than $100,000 in a cryptocurrency scam—pleaded guilty on Tuesday in exchange for a three-year sentence, it was widely reported.

Authorities said that Graham Ivan Clark, now 18, and two other men used social engineering and other techniques to gain access to internal Twitter systems. They then allegedly used their control to take over what Twitter has said were 130 accounts. A small sampling of the account holders included then Former Vice President Joe Biden, Tesla founder Elon Musk, pop star Kanye West, and philanthropist and Microsoft founder and former CEO and Chairman Bill Gates.

The defendants, prosecutors have alleged, then caused the high-profile accounts—many with millions of followers—to promote scams that promised to double the returns if people deposited bitcoins into attacker-controlled wallets. The scheme generated more than $117,000. The hackers also took over accounts with short usernames, which are highly coveted in a criminal hacking forum circle calling itself OGusers.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Clark agreed to plead guilty in return for a three-year prison sentence followed by three years’ probation. The agreement allows Clark to be sentenced as a “youthful offender,” a status that allows him to avoid a minimum 10-year sentence he would have received if he was convicted as an adult.


Things in life that are certain: death, taxes, hacking, hackers getting into jail. (An Australian journalist I knew used to say “there are three things in life that are certain: death, taxes and nurses.” Australians, eh.)
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Implanted memories teach birds songs they’ve never heard • New Atlas

Michael Irving:


Finch fathers sing to their chicks while they’re young, and eventually the baby birds will start to mimic them. Over time, they’ll master the song and pass it down to their own offspring. In a way, zebra finches show a simplified version of human vocal development.

But in the new study, the researchers bypassed this process and directly manipulated the brains of young finches, teaching them parts of a song without any kind of tutoring from their parents.

They managed this using optogenetics, a technique where flashes of light are used to stimulate certain neurons in the brain. In this case, the scientists manipulated the connection between the part of the brain that processes what the animal hears, and the part that controls the vocal “motor.” In effect, they were creating auditory memories that would normally be coming from outside, and the bird would naturally try to mimic the signals.

The researchers used a kind of Morse code to teach the finches how long syllables of the song should be. Longer pulses of light told them to sing longer syllables, and vice versa. And sure enough, the birds eventually learned to sing along, even though they’d never been taught by an adult finch.


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The NFT art heists (may) have begun • Gizmodo

Shoshana Wodinsky:


Nifty Gateway—an NFT marketplace that was bought out by the Winklevoss twins back in 2019—announced on Monday morning some of its users were swept up in a small-scale hack that saw their accounts and credit cards compromised.

“Our analysis is ongoing, but our initial assessment indicates that the impact was limited,” the company tweeted Monday morning. “None of the impacted accounts had 2FA enabled, and access was obtained via valid account credentials.” Aside from mentioning that some NFT’s “involved in these account takeovers” were sold over Discord or Twitter, Nifty’s thread is pretty light on the details.

That disclosure is likely a response to some of the anecdotal accounts coming from Nifty users reporting thousands of dollars worth of artwork being bought under their Nifty accounts. “Someone stole my NFTs today on @niftygateway and purchased $10K++ worth of today’s drop without my knowledge,” tweeted Michael Miraflor, an ad consultant based out of Los Angeles. Another collector tweeted on Monday morning claiming that his account was robbed of about $150,000 worth of artwork.


An equally relevant, and more sobering, thread (non-Twitter link) explains that a lot of these NFTs are tied to websites run by companies which are sure to go bust. At which point the NFT is worthless because it’s tied to a URL on the site.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

3 thoughts on “Start Up No.1508: the bear case on Clubhouse, new iPad Pros incoming?, OnePlus shuns Wear OS, Intel snipes at Apple’s M1, and more

  1. ” That stat on crimes might seem surprising, but did anyone really think marijuana was a serious cause of violent crime? Some property crime, perhaps, but violent crime?”

    I think there is quite a lot of evidence that violent criminals smoke dope and are helped with violence as a result (the same is true of alcohol of course). It was a big drug in the Bosnian war, and in the Syrian/Lebanese horrors.

    But these are exactly the sort of people whose consumption is not going to be affected by legalisation. And dope has never been a drug to make Maureen Dowd into a violent crazy. So the lack of a spike in violent crime after legalisation isn’t really surprising.

  2. ” That stat on crimes might seem surprising, but did anyone really think marijuana was a serious cause of violent crime? Some property crime, perhaps, but violent crime?”

    The point is surely that the type of criminal who is both given to violent crime and to smoking dope is exactly the sort whose dope consumption is not going to be affected by legalisation. I’ve read too many accounts of soldiers perpetrating atrocities while stoned to suppose that cannabis is a generally pacifying drug. Certainly not when it’s part of a pattern of polydrug consumption. But the lack of an effect — either way — on violent crime is pretty much what you’d expect.

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