Start Up: Continuum discontinued, Taboola abused, the fake Facebookers, and more


Zune v iPod: one survived, one failed. What’s the lesson to be drawn? Photo by Jim Thompson on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Where the streets have no name but have got a single letter and four-digit number. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

HP Inc exec: Yes, we’ll put a bullet in the X3 device • The Register

Paul Kunert:

»

The three-in-one PC debuted in February 2016, built around Microsoft’s Continuum. El Reg’s lab vultures tested the kit and were impressed but found constraints caused by the Continuum operating system.

Despite an obvious mobile-shaped hole in a leaked Windows roadmap, HP Inc insisted in August that it was committed to Continuum and so was Microsoft. Until now, that is.

Nick Lazaridis, EMEA boss at HP Inc, told The Register at the Canalys Channels Forum in Venice that Microsoft had confirmed there will be no further development work on the mobile OS.

“Microsoft, as all companies do, decided on a change in strategy and so they are less focused on what they thought they would be focused on today,” he said.

“Given that, we also had decided that without Microsoft’s drive and support there it doesn’t make sense. If the software, if the operating system ecosystem isn’t there then we are not an operating system company.”

«

Of course, HP used to have so many operating systems it was hard to choose between them; webOS was only the most recent.
link to this extract


Orthogonal pivots • Asymco

Horace Dediu:

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This [closure of Microsoft’s Groove music service by the end of the year] brings to an end a long story of Microsoft in the music distribution business. It started nearly 15 years ago with technologies in Windows that allowed for purchase and playback of various media formats. Microsoft sought to enable a large number of music retailers to market music through its formats and DRM and transaction clearing.

Services such as AOL MusicNow, Yahoo! Music Unlimited, Spiralfrog, MTV URGE, MSN Music, Musicmatch Jukebox, Wal-Mart Music Downloads, Ruckus, PassAlong, Rhapsody, iMesh and BearShare and dozens of hardware players licensed Windows formats. Almost all of these services have shut down and the devices disappeared.

The next stage was to offer an integrated experience through the Microsoft Zune player and Zune Marketplace music service. This too failed and was replaced by the Xbox Music brand in 2012. On July 6, 2015, Microsoft announced the re-branding of Xbox Music as Groove to tie in with the release of Windows 10.

There was a time when Microsoft was thought of as the certain winner in media distribution. Inserting media into the Windows hegemony was classic “control point” strategy: owning the access points was a sure way to collect a tax on what transacted through the network.

Instead we are facing a market where media is consumed through new access points: phones, tablets and TV boxes. Netflix, Spotify, Roku, Google, Amazon and Apple are all offering distribution and some are investing in original programming.

«

Why? Because – as I found when I wrote “Digital Wars” – the modular approach to music players (someone makes the music player, someone else makes the DRM-enforcing software, someone else again offers the DRM-encoded music) produces an awful customer experience. If a problem arises, you’re never quite sure whose fault it is, and nor are any of those in the chain; they all hand it off to someone else.

The iPod and the iTunes Music Store came straight through the middle of all that confusion:

»

the long arc of history shows how hard it is to succeed in vertical integration after you build on horizontal foundations. Generations of managers graduated from the modular school of thought, specializing rather than generalizing. Now they are facing an integrated experiential world where progress depends on wrapping the mind around very broad systems problems.

Entire industries are facing this orthogonal pivot: media, computing and transportation come to mind. Huge blind spots exist as we see only what we’ve been trained to see.

«

link to this extract


Tech support scammers abuse native ad and content provider Taboola to serve malvertising (updated) • Malwarebytes Labs

Jerome Segura:

»

A large number of publishers – big and small – are monetizing their sites by selling space for companies that provide so-called native advertising, cited as more effective and engaging than traditional banner ads.

Indeed, on a news or entertainment site, users are more inclined to click on links and articles thinking that they are one and the same, not realizing that those are actually ‘sponsored’ and tied to various third-party providers.

Rogue advertisers have realized this unique opportunity to redirect genuine traffic towards their own infrastructure where they can subject their audience to whatever content they wish.

Case in point, we caught this malvertising incident on MSN.com, the Microsoft web portal that attracts millions of unique visitors. While clicking on a story promoted by Taboola – a leading global discovery platform which Microsoft signed a deal within 2016 – we were redirected to a tech support scam page. The warning claims that our computer has crashed and that we must call a number for immediate assistance.

The fraudulent page cannot be closed normally because it uses code that repeats the warning indefinitely. Unfortunately, this is enough to scare many folks and trick them into calling what they think is Microsoft support. Instead, they will be dealing with fake technicians whose goal is to extort hundreds of dollars from them.

«

People think they’re clicking through to a story; instead they hit this crap.
link to this extract


The Pixel market share chart Google probably won’t be showing at its event today • Recode

Dan Frommer and Rani Molla:

»

Google insists it has ambitious plans to create “compelling hardware products” and recently announced it would be hiring about 2,000 engineers from Taiwanese phone maker HTC to help achieve them. You can imagine future Pixels and other projects as part of that partnership (today’s is reportedly a partnership with LG).

What’s less clear is whether Google has any significant changes in store to how the Pixel is marketed and sold. Because while its first version was critically acclaimed for both its hardware and software, it has not made much of a dent in the U.S. smartphone market after launching last October.

An average 0.7% of U.S. smartphone subscribers used the Pixel in the three month period ending in August, according to data from measurement company comScore. For context: Apple’s iPhone is used by 45.5% of subscribers, and Samsung phones — the dominant company using Google Android to power its devices — represents 29.5% of U.S. subscriber share. More broadly, 53% of U.S. smartphone subscribers use Android phones.

«

ComScore stopped giving out detailed data when the smartphone installed base seemed to have levelled off at about 200m total in use. So 0.7% would translate to 1.4m phones in use. (Versus about 91m iPhones and 59m Samsung phones.) There are twice as many Blackberry and Windows Phone devices combined in use than Pixel phones.

So it really is going to be quite the question on how big a commitment it has made to the manufacturing side. Great products are only the beginning of the road.

link to this extract


News Feed FYI: New Test to Provide Context About Articles • Facebook Newsroom

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Today we are starting a new test to give people additional context on the articles they see in News Feed. This new feature is designed to provide people some of the tools they need to make an informed decision about which stories to read, share, and trust. It reflects feedback from our community, including many publishers who collaborated on its development as part of our work through the Facebook Journalism Project.

For links to articles shared in News Feed, we are testing a button that people can tap to easily access additional information without needing to go elsewhere. The additional contextual information is pulled from across Facebook and other sources, such as information from the publisher’s Wikipedia entry, a button to follow their Page, trending articles or related articles about the topic, and information about how the article is being shared by people on Facebook. In some cases, if that information is unavailable, we will let people know, which can also be helpful context.

«

Key phrase there: “without needing to go elsewhere.” Facebook never wants you to leave. It truly is Hotel California, and makes itself more like that every day.
link to this extract


Removed Facebook Pages: engagement metrics and posts – dataset by d1gi • data.world

Jonathan Albright:

»

The data presented here is a catalog of the non-promoted organic reach of the posts on each of the alleged foreign influence ops pages, showing the “total shared to” and sum of interactions (FB “reactions” + “likes” + shares, and comments) for each of the individual posts. Data was obtained directly from Crowdtangle, a Facebook-owned social analytics service.

Along with the complete text archive for each of posts, this data sheds light on the larger potential impact of the use of Facebook’s platform beyond of a single advertising buy. Specifically, the work presented here suggests that there was a much more subtle, if not outright subversive campaign on these five closed pages to:

a) Siphon Facebook users’ data related to their personal views and moral standings about sensitive topics by observing their responses to suggestive statements followed by discussion questions and conversation prompts;
b) Use faux-support, trust-building, and actor deception to test users’ attitudes, core values, religious beliefs, and push the boundaries of social norms (e.g., racism justification through immigration); and
c) Encourage users’ to be tracked through emotional sharing vectors – “likes,” “reactions,” and url shares – to monitor issue “wedges,” further segment audiences, and to identify “hot-button” issues and keywords around current events.

«

In one case, one of the pages went overnight from 0 followers to between 70,000 and 200,000 followers. Either purchased, or bots. That’s a determined campaign.

And notice this is non-promoted posts – so this isn’t to do with the $100,000 in ads which targeted marginal states. (Albright is research director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University.)
link to this extract


Russian hackers stole NSA data on US cyber defense • WSJ

Gordon Lubold and Shane Harris:

»

Hackers working for the Russian government stole details of how the US penetrates foreign computer networks and defends against cyberattacks after a National Security Agency contractor removed the highly classified material and put it on his home computer, according to multiple people with knowledge of the matter.

The hackers appear to have targeted the contractor after identifying the files through the contractor’s use of a popular antivirus software made by Russia-based Kaspersky Lab, these people said.

The theft, which hasn’t been disclosed, is considered by experts to be one of the most significant security breaches in recent years. It offers a rare glimpse into how the intelligence community thinks Russian intelligence exploits a widely available commercial software product to spy on the US.

The incident occurred in 2015 but wasn’t discovered until spring of last year, said the people familiar with the matter.

The stolen material included details about how the NSA penetrates foreign computer networks, the computer code it uses for such spying and how it defends networks inside the U.S., these people said.

«

Aha. So this is why the US government has tacitly – well, perhaps not so tacitly – declared cyberwar on Kaspersky: they think it is feeding stuff back to the Kremlin. Kaspersky denies it.

And well done NSA on tightening up those safeguards against data exfiltration after Snowden in 2013 👌
link to this extract


Google admits citing 4chan to spread fake Vegas shooter news • Ars Technica

Sam Machkovech:

»

Google News took the unusual step of confirming its use of the imageboard site 4chan as a news source on Monday. The admission followed Google News’ propagation of an incorrect name as a potential shooter in the tragic Las Vegas shooting on Sunday night.

A reporter from tech-news site The Outline posted the full text of an e-mail he received from an unnamed Google representative. Reporter William Turton said that he had not discussed any “attribution terms” before receiving Google’s e-mail, which confirmed that the Google News service was bombed into automatically reposting a false shooter’s name.

The incorrect shooter’s name, which Ars Technica will not repost to reduce any further robo-aggregated hits, began appearing on 4chan’s “pol” board, which is infamous for pushing intentionally inflammatory content. The name appeared on the board when its members began looking through people connected to names that had been mentioned by Las Vegas investigators. One of those people—a sibling of a person of interest who was later cleared by Vegas police of wrongdoing—had social-media attachments to left-leaning subjects such as MoveOn.org and MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show. Both 4chan and right-wing misinformation sites like Gateway Pundit began spreading the false name as a suspect while calling the person a “far-left loon.” (GP’s article has since been removed, but a Google Cache of it still exists.)

Google News’ statement claims that these false reports landed on the service’s “Top Stories” feed due to a burst of activity for a name that had never received many search attempts. “When the fresh 4chan story broke, it triggered Top Stories, which unfortunately led to this inaccurate result,” the statement reads.

«

Twitter, Facebook and Google sort of got on top (mostly) of standard spam. Now they need to consider how to get on top of information spam.
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Wayback Machine Playback… now with timestamps! • Internet Archive Blogs

Mark Graham:

»

The Wayback Machine has an exciting new feature: it can list the dates and times, the Timestamps, of all page elements compared to the date and time of the base URL of a page.  This means that users can see, for instance, that an image displayed on a page was captured X days before the URL of the page or Y hours after it.  Timestamps are available via the “About this capture” link on the right side of the Wayback Toolbar.  Here is an example:

The Timestamps list includes the URLs and date and time difference compared to the current page for the following page elements: images, scripts, CSS and frames. Elements are presented in a descending order. If you put your cursor over a list element on the page, it will be highlighted and if you click on it you will be shown a playback of just that element.

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It’s easy to underestimate how valuable the Internet Archive is. If you’re doing any sort of serious research about events from the recent past – say up to 10 years ago online – it’s essential. Linkrot is real, but the Archive is the perfect preserver.
link to this extract


If macOS High Sierra shows your password instead of the password hint for an encrypted APFS volume • Apple Support

»

Your password might be displayed instead of your password hint if you used the Add APFS Volume command in Disk Utility to create an encrypted APFS volume, and you supplied a password hint.
 
Changing the password on an affected volume clears the hint but doesn’t affect the underlying encryption keys that protect the data. 

Apple recommends that you take these steps to guard the security of your data. Encrypted APFS volumes that you created using any other method are not affected.

«

This is quite a bug to have slipped through the QA process.
link to this extract


Iraq claims victory in Hawija, ISIS’s last urban stronghold • The New York Times

David Zucchino and Rod Nordland:

»

Morale among militants in the Hawija area appears to be deteriorating rapidly. At least 600 men identified by Kurdish forces as Islamic State fighters have surrendered to the Kurds in Dibis, in Kirkuk Province. An additional 400 to 500 are being interrogated on suspicion of being militants. Together, they represent a substantial portion of the estimated 2,000 to 3,000 Islamic State fighters who were in the Hawija area before Iraq began military operations there on Sept. 21.

As in other battles over the past three years, Iraqi forces have been supported in Hawija by American military advisers, forward air controllers, special operations troops, airstrikes and artillery.

Col. Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the United States-led coalition in Baghdad, said Thursday that the United States had conducted 16 airstrikes in the past week in support of the Hawija operation. The speed of what seems to have been a two-week Iraqi military sweep through Hawija suggests that the militants are no longer able to sustain effective military operations for long periods.

The battle to drive them from Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, lasted nine months before it was liberated in July. But the next city to fall from the Islamic State, Tal Afar in late August, took only 11 days. [Operations against Hawija began on September 21; that’s 14 days ago.]

«

A brief spasm – three years – approaches its end.
link to this extract


Bids in 300MW Saudi solar tender breach two cents • PV Tech

»

Saudi Arabia’s 300MW solar tender has seen opening bids go lower than two US cents [per kWh], setting the tone for a new global solar power tariff record if awarded.

Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) bid for 300MW capacity at SAR0.0669736/kWh (US$1.786 cents).

During a webinar showing the bid opening ceremony, Saudi Arabia’s new Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) revealed the eight companies that had made it through to this stage, having had 27 companies shortlisted originally in April.

REPDO then announced that these bids will be evaluated for compliance with the requirements of the RfP and a final shortlist of bidders will be announced on 28 November. The project will be awarded to the winning consortium on 27 January 2018, backed by a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA). The financial closing date will be 28 February 2018 and the commissioning date is expected during 2019.

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This is a very low LCOE [levelised cost of energy]. Solar already comes pretty low on this cost. It’s getting cheaper.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up: rise of the mining ads, Google does hardware, Facebook’s new Russia trouble, and more


Compuserve: it did all the web things, but before many people had heard of the web. Photo by James Cridland on Flickr.

A selection of 12 links for you. They’re really linky. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Cloudflare bans sites for using cryptocurrency miners • TorrentFreak

“Andy”:

»

It all began with The Pirate Bay, which quietly added a Javascript cryptocurrency miner to its main site, something that first manifested itself as a large spike in CPU utilization on the machines of visitors.

The stealth addition to the platform, which its operators later described as a test, was extremely controversial. While many thought of the miner as a cool and innovative way to generate revenue in a secure fashion, a vocal majority expressed a preference for permission being requested first, in case they didn’t want to participate in the program.

Over the past couple of weeks, several other sites have added similar miners, some which ask permission to run and others that do not. While the former probably aren’t considered problematic, the latter are now being viewed as a serious problem by an unexpected player in the ecosystem.

TorrentFreak has learned that popular CDN service Cloudflare, which is often criticized for not being harsh enough on ‘pirate’ sites, is actively suspending the accounts of sites that deploy cryptocurrency miners on their platforms.

«

Good. That’s an amazing abuse. Ads are bad, but they tend to load and sit there. (OK, maybe not video.) Actively parasitising someone else’s CPU crosses a line.
link to this extract


Google’s new phones tap services, software to chase Apple • Bloomberg

Mark Gurman and Mark Bergen:

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Both phones have OLED screens, like last year, but the Pixel displays don’t cover the entire front of the devices, unlike Apple’s new iPhone X and Samsung’s S8 models. That may make Google’s new phones look dated in a 2017 smartphone industry that’s already embraced all-screen designs.

Both models continue to include fingerprint scanners on the back while competitors shift to either integrating biometrics into the screens or using facial recognition to authenticate users. The Pixel phones are priced in a similar range to their rivals, starting at $649 for the small model and $849 for the bigger one.

«

Nice, but Google’s supply chain is going to be severely tested again. Availability only in six countries, only on Verizon in the US. Are the AI benefits going to be pushed down to Android OEMs as Google Assistant was?
link to this extract


Google’s new camera “Clips” uses AI to automatically get great shots • Buzzfeed

Mat Honan:

»

Its entire purpose is to automatically take candid photos of hard-to-capture subjects like kids and pets.

It’s quite small, sort of cute, and is basically a cube with a big lens in the front. There is no display, or viewfinder, and it is meant to be used hands-free via an attached clip that doubles as a stand. It costs $249 and will work with iOS 10 and Android 7 or later. There’s no ship date yet.
Wait, but what do you mean it automatically takes candid photos?

Yeah, so, here’s where the camera gets weird.

The camera uses artificial intelligence to both evaluate picture quality and see if someone it “knows” is within view. If it decides that something is a good picture and it recognizes the subject (which could be a person or a pet), it takes a short clip — which can be saved as a video, a GIF, or as one of Google’s newly announced Motion Photos. You can also select still images if moving pictures are not really your thing.

«

AI at the centre of what Google does; trying to make it a differentiator.
link to this extract


Google unveils Pixel Buds earphones, aping Apple’s AirPods • Bloomberg

Mark Gurman:

»

Unlike Apple’s AirPods, the buds are connected by a wire that rests behind the neck. Similar to Apple’s popular earphones, the Pixel Buds cost $160, come with a carrying case that doubles as charger, and have five hours of battery. The case provides four charges over 24 hours before it has to be plugged in.

The Pixel Buds let users listen to music but also have Google’s digital voice assistant built-in. A user can tap the right headphone to invoke Google Assistant, control music playback with their voice, and get directions from the company’s Maps app. The headset’s most show-worthy feature is a live translate mode, which lets users hand their phone off to someone speaking another language and that speech will automatically convert to the wearer’s native tongue and be played back by the Pixel Buds.

«

That’s very clever. (I’m going to question how useful it will be to Americans, who will be the principal buyers, but the long-term application is wonderful.
link to this extract


Now a shadow of its former self, CompuServe blazed trails online • Columbus Dispatch

Tim Feran:

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CompuServe innovations included large-scale credit-card authorizations, online research for Wall Street banks and online scheduling for airlines. In 1980 alone, CompuServe introduced real-time chat and the first online newspaper — The Columbus Dispatch — in which news flowed into home computers and users were billed in one-minute increments.

“All sorts of stuff that didn’t exist until, one day, we provided it,” Lambert said. “And then people would say, ‘How did we live without it.’ There was a lot of energy. It was the beginning of a new industry and almost everything we did was pioneering in some way. It was never boring. There was always something going on.”

In the fast-moving world of computers the competition was intense, not only to keep innovating but to get and keep talented employees. And that became the key to CompuServe’s eventual downfall.

“When CompuServe was sold to H&R Block in 1980, I felt it was a great partner to have in the information business,” Wilkins said. “But after about five years, I felt we were starting to fall behind because the stock options were with H&R Block and that wasn’t sexy enough for recruiting. So I suggested we spin off the company — and I was told, ‘In the future, but not now.’”

«

link to this extract


Russians took a page from corporate America by using Facebook tool to ID and influence voters • The Washington Post

Elizabeth Dwoskin, Craig Timberg and Adam Entous:

»

Russian operatives set up an array of misleading Web sites and social media pages to identify American voters susceptible to propaganda, then used a powerful Facebook tool to repeatedly send them messages designed to influence their political behavior, say people familiar with the investigation into foreign meddling in the U.S. election.

The tactic resembles what American businesses and political campaigns have been doing in recent years to deliver messages to potentially interested people online. The Russians exploited this system by creating English-language sites and Facebook pages that closely mimicked those created by U.S. political activists.

The Web sites and Facebook pages displayed ads or other messages focused on such hot-button issues as illegal immigration, African American political activism and the rising prominence of Muslims in the United States. The Russian operatives then used a Facebook “retargeting” tool, called Custom Audiences, to send specific ads and messages to voters who had visited those sites, say people familiar with the investigation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share details from an ongoing investigation.

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Facebook is in so much trouble.
link to this extract


After mocking Apple, Google is also ditching headphone jack • Cult of Mac

»

Google mocked the iPhone 7’s missing headphone jack in its marketing material for the original Pixel smartphone — but it won’t be doing the same for the Pixel 2.

Just like Apple, the company has decided to remove the aging port from its latest handsets. A new leak reveals that the lineup will rely solely on USB-C for wired connectivity.
A number of manufacturers ridiculed Apple’s decision to remove the headphone jack from its iPhone lineup last fall. Despite it being decades old, it’s still an incredibly common port that most people use regularly. Apple had to banish it to make room for new technologies.

Most iPhone fans quickly adapted to life without wired headphones, and soon, rival smartphone manufacturers started following Apple’s lead. Now, it seems even those who mocked the decision are beginning to accept the headphone jack is dying.

«

Well, not quite. The Pixel isn’t going to sell in anything like large enough volumes to have an effect on what people think of headphone jacks. Apple has started it, but it’s only going to be when Samsung drops the jack on its top-end line that you’ll know it’s on the way out. (There were rumours the S8 would drop it; it kept it.)
link to this extract


Sonos is adding AirPlay 2 support for Apple devices in 2018 • The Verge

Chaim Gartenberg:

»

Sonos just announced that it’ll be adding support for Apple’s new AirPlay 2 standard to its speakers next year. In addition to making it easier to play music from iOS devices, AirPlay 2 means that — much like the recently announced Alexa support — users will be able to use Siri on iOS devices and eventually Apple’s HomePod to control their Sonos systems.

AirPlay 2 also enables multi-room support for AirPlay speakers, meaning that you’ll be able to integrate Sonos devices with other AirPlay 2 speakers for a seamless experience across your home — including Apple’s HomePod, which was originally announced as a competitor to Sonos’ devices.

«

It’s hard not to feel that Sonos is slightly desperately playing catch-up here. It’s very good at what it does (multi-room high-quality streaming speakers) but sound quality turns out to be something people don’t care about enough. Adding Alexa might be too late.
link to this extract


How to destroy our economy • Forbes

David Pridham on why there isn’t any wage growth even while GDP seems to boom:

»

The sewing machine, electric power, automobiles, acrylics, the zipper, the aircraft industry, the jet engine, the radio industry, the television industry, power steering, the helicopter, rocketry, cellophane, neoprene, air conditioning, the electron microscope, instant cameras, magnetic recording, fluorescent lighting, radar, the safety razor, stainless steel, and the world’s first cyclotron — these are just a few of the breakthroughs that came from entrepreneurs and startups. And those were just the industries created up to the 1950s when Jewkes wrote his book.

To all the above, we must also add the trillion-dollar, world-changing industries of the last 60 years: the semiconductor, consumer electronics, personal computer, software, biotech, mobile telephony, and Internet e-commerce industries. Once again, all were created by small startups — and on the basis of a patented innovation, no less (more on that in a moment).

Startups don’t only create breakthrough innovations and new industries. They also create jobs. Not just many of them, or even most of them. I mean, all of them!

“Across the decades, young companies are really the heavy hitters of job creation,” Arnobio Morelix, an economist at the Kauffman Foundation, told The Times.

In fact, startups have been responsible for literally 100% of all net job growth in the United States over the last 40 years. If you took startups out of the picture and looked only at big businesses, job growth in the U.S. since 1977 would actually be negative.

«

link to this extract


Smart home market worth $6bn by end of year and rising fast • Futuresource Consulting

»

“Consumers carry their smartphones everywhere they go, even when moving from room to room around the home,” says [market analyst Filipe] Oliveira. “Smartphones currently have the edge on smart speakers, because these devices allow face recognition and gesture commands to play a role alongside voice commands. Voice may not be needed at all in many smart home situations; when the user is away from a microphone, when there is background noise or when multiple people are talking in the same room, for example.”

Watch this space for combined voice and sensor control embedded into your smart refrigerator, wall art, mirrors, set-top boxes and TVs, any of which could become the means by which users give commands to their smart home.

There are currently four main smart home categories, namely hubs and control devices, security and monitoring, climate control and lighting systems.

“Security and monitoring products are leading the smart home charge. With the highest penetration rates and the largest value and volume at retail, this category is one of the main drivers of growth,” says Oliveira…

…At present, North America represents over 60% of global smart home shipments and will continue to take the lion’s share out to 2021 and beyond. In Europe, the UK is playing a starring role in the smart home revolution. With a smaller population than both Germany and France, the UK outstrips them as the biggest market for smart home products in Western Europe. Looking to the Asia Pacific region, South Korea is leading the way and growing fast, due to a combination of home grown CE brands and an early adopter mindset. The Middle East and Africa are behind the smart home curve…

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Most installations are simple DIY things.
link to this extract


This future looks familiar: watching [the original] Blade Runner in 2017 • Tor.com

Sarah Gailey:

»

I told a lot of people that I was going to watch Blade Runner for the first time, because I know that people have opinions about Blade Runner. All of them gave me a few watery opinions to keep in mind going in—nothing that would spoil me, but things that would help me understand what they assured me would be a Very Strange Film.

None of them told me the right things, though. So, in case you are like me and have been living in a cave and have never seen Blade Runner before and are considering watching it, I will tell you a little about it.

There are cops, and there are little people.

There is a whole class of slaves. It is illegal for them to escape slavery. The cops are supposed to murder the slaves if they escape, because there is a risk that they will start to think they’re people. But the cops know that the slaves are not people, so it’s okay to murder them. The greatest danger, the thing the cops are supposed to prevent, is that the slaves will try to assimilate into the society that relies on their labor.

Assimilation is designed to be impossible. There are tests. Impossible tests with impossible questions and impossible answers. The tests measure empathy. It is not about having enough empathy, but about having empathy for the correct things. If you do not have enough empathy for the correct things, you will be murdered by a cop who does have empathy for the correct things.

«

This is watching the Director’s [aka Final] Cut, which doesn’t have the voiceover that the studio insisted be added in to the start and after a key final scene, nor the ostensibly “happy” ending. She’s completely right, of course. (I watched the Final Cut with my son – who hadn’t seen it either – and was struck by how removing the stuff the execs put in improved it. Also at the duplication of plot exposition in an early segment, but that’s screenwriting.)
link to this extract


Graphmented • Product Hunt

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Graphmented transforms your whole desk into a spreadsheets workstation. Drop sheets and charts on your desk as if they are real objects and make use of your whole desk space
Plot 3D and 2D scattered and grouped bars Charts, Record stunning videos of 3D charts exploration, import CSV and Excel files from iCloud Drive and Dropbox, and Google Sheets.

(This is the video link if that doesn’t work.)

«

The video does make it clear at the start that it isn’t OCR’ing stuff on your desktop (how awesome that would be). Certainly this gives a glimpse of how AR could be useful in a work setting: view this through glasses connected to the phone, and your workstyle changes. How though do you then show workmates what you’ve done, compared to swinging a monitor at them? AR raises lots of questions about collaboration.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

Start Up: Google gets launching, Facebook’s miserly video, Trumps’ private email server, and more


Want that unsettling continually rising or falling sound from Dunkirk, the film? Coming to a computer near you in a moment. Photo by waldopepper on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 11 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Equifax can’t protect data, but it can keep a secret • Bloomberg Gadfly

Stephen Gandel:

»

Equifax, as everyone knows now, proved inept at securing the most sensitive personal and financial data of as many as 143 million Americans. But it turns out the company was exceptionally good at protecting news of the hack from getting out.

The credit-reporting bureau was, it seems, able to keep that news from top executives, the board and eventually the public for far longer than other corporate victims. LinkedIn confirmed a 2012 hack just three days after the social network found out about it.

Target confirmed its huge hack in 2014 seven days after it was discovered, and a day after rumors, spread by cybersecurity bloggers, had begun circulating that the retailer’s customers’ credit card information had been breached. At Equifax, however, the company was able to keep that information safe from the public for 39 days. And you say former CEO Richard Smith isn’t deserving of a $7.6m stock bonus?…

…[John] Kelley, the company’s top lawyer, and, once again, also the head of corporate security, signed off on the stock sales [by insiders] although he had been made aware of suspicious cyber activity on July 30. It wasn’t until two weeks later, in the afternoon, that Smith’s crack team of 225 cybersecurity experts were able to report back to the CEO that its consumer database had been hacked. That’s important, because just that morning, conveniently before his hack briefing, Smith gave a rosy speech about the company and how it understood the importance of cybersecurity.

«

This is just gobsmacking. Equifax isn’t out of the woods by a long way.
link to this extract


3 billion Yahoo users hit in 2013 data breach, the company now says • USA Today

Elizabeth Weise:

»

All 3 billion of Yahoo’s users as of 2013 were affected by a data theft the company originally said had only affected 1 billion users, Yahoo said Tuesday in a statement. That makes the Yahoo hack far and away the largest in history. 

The additional two billion data theft victims came to light as Yahoo was being integrated with Verizon, which bought the company in June for $4.5 billion. 

“During integration, the company recently obtained new intelligence and now believes, following an investigation with the assistance of outside forensic experts, that all Yahoo user accounts were affected by the August 2013 theft,” the company said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday. 

The revelation isn’t a huge security issue for the company or for users, though it is a black eye at a time when cybersecurity is in the limelight due the Equifax hack. 

The 2016 investigation found that the stolen user account information did not include passwords in clear text, payment card data, or bank account information. 

Yahoo said it would send email notifications to the additional affected user accounts.

«

Yahoo has 3bn users? Yeah right. 3bn accounts, maybe. I’d love to know how many of those email notifications never get read.
link to this extract


What to expect from the Google event this week • AndroidAuthority

Mitja Rutnik:

»

Google will be holding an event on October 4 in San Francisco, where the company is expected to announce a number of new devices. Rumor has it that we’ll see a Chromebook, an upgraded VR headset, a couple of smart speakers, and more revealed alongside the two new Pixel smartphones.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at all of the devices that might make their debut at the event, to give you a better idea of what to expect. Just keep in mind that most of what you’ll read down below should be considered as a rumor for now, as Google hasn’t shared any specific details regarding the products it will show off.

«

New Pixel phones, new big and little Google Homes, new Daydream View VR headset, new Google Pixelbook. There you go. Reaction to the new Pixels will be interesting; more interesting will be what sort of volume it can make them in. Given it’s LG making this line, it could be substantial – if Google has committed enough.
link to this extract


Pivot to pennies: Facebook’s key video ad program isn’t delivering much money to publishers • Digiday

Sahil Patel:

»

Six months in, Facebook’s test of mid-roll ad breaks within live and on-demand videos is driving scant revenue for publishers.

Five publishers participating in Facebook’s mid-roll ads test, which began in March, said the product isn’t generating much money. One publisher said its Facebook-monetized videos had an average CPM of 15 cents. A second publisher, which calculated ad rates based on video views that lasted long enough to reach the ad break, said the average CPM for its mid-rolls is 75 cents. (Facebook’s mid-roll ads don’t show up inside videos in the first 20 seconds, which means many three-second video views aren’t “monetized views.”)

A third publisher made roughly $500 from more than 20 million total video views on that page in September.* (This publisher had not calculated its CPM, as its total video view count includes videos that were not monetized by Facebook mid-rolls.)…

…“They are paying literal pennies in CPMs,” said the first publishing source. “They are only paying if a view gets to the 20-second mark and the user consumes the ad. But if Facebook is counting views at 3 seconds, the majority of the views are not going to quality. If you got a million views on a piece of content, maybe 100,000 of them would actually get to the mid-roll.”

«

$500 probably isn’t going to cover the cost of making the video. Sure, it’s going to be around forever, but its earning life is probably going to be mostly done already.
link to this extract


Binaural Shepard tone generator • myNoise.net

»

This brain-melting generator came from a user’s request for a Shepard Tone generator. The Shepard Tone is an auditory illusion, whose pitch sounds like it is ascending or descending, yet never seems to get any higher or lower. In this case, the odd numbered sliders produce the rising tones, and the even numbered sliders produce the falling tones. By mixing the two together you will produce truly mind-bending audio signals. As an added bonus, and to make this Shepard tone generator sound unique, each slider has been binaurally encoded, and throws the complete spectrum of brainwave frequencies into the mix!

«

The Shepard tone is a favourite of film director Christopher Nolan – it’s used extensively in Dunkirk (and a little in Interstellar). Note the warnings:

»

This sound can cause anxiety and panic attacks. If you suffer from either of these conditions, do not listen to this sound generator. Instead, try one of our more soothing ones, like Osmosis. Shepard Madness can be very unpleasant, or amusing, depending on the person who is listening. Make sure you can tolerate side effects including increased heart rate, headache, dizziness, and nausea. If you feel faint, just leave this page, and put your head between your knees to recover quickly.

«

Enjoy!
link to this extract


Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner have secret email account hosted by Trump Organization • Newsweek

Chris Riotta:

»

The married couple registered the domain ijkfamily.com on December 31, just 21 days prior to Trump’s inauguration, Politico reported Monday night. Internet sleuths including Arieh Kovler, a communications consultant, responded to the reporting by quickly uncovering a critical component of the story: A joint email account on ijkfamily.com, the Kushner family domain, that was used by two of the president’s closest advisers and monitored by their personal household staff was hosted on servers owned by the Trump family’s private organization.

The new finding is likely to raise a number of ethics and security concerns, including whether it’s appropriate or even legal for members of the White House administration to use email accounts hosted by the first family’s private business. There’s also the issue of who had access to the couple’s private email account during their time in the White House: Anyone from employees of the Trump Organization to the company it uses for IT purposes, BBH Solutions, as well as foreign adversaries and hackers, may have already gained access to the data—or could eventually retrieve the emails if they remain stored on Trump servers.

«

People are going to be so exhausted of email pretty soon.
link to this extract


Forget Russian trolls. Facebook’s own staff helped win the election • Buzzfeed

Daniel Kreiss and Shannon McGregor:

»

our research shows another, less discussed aspect of Facebook’s political influence was far more consequential in terms of the election outcome. The entirely routine use of Facebook by Trump’s campaign and others — a major part of the $1.1bn of paid digital advertising during the cycle — is likely to have had far greater reach than Russian bots and fake news sites. And beyond this reach, our research reveals that firms such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter now play a much more active role in electoral politics than has been widely acknowledged.

Those companies had staff working hand in hand with Trump campaign digital staffers, according to Gary Coby, the director of advertising at the RNC [Republican National Congress] and director of digital advertising and fundraising for Trump’s general election campaign. “I required that if people wanted to work with us, they needed to send bodies to us in Texas and put people on the ground because Hillary had this giant machine, well-built out with digital operations, and we’re just a few guys and a big Twitter account,” he told us.

“Google, Twitter, and Facebook, we had people who were down there constantly and constantly working with us, helping us solve our problems in relation to how we’re using the platforms,” he said. “If we’re coming up with new ideas, bringing them into the fold to come up with ideas of how their platform could help us achieve our goals.”…

…Not all campaigns use Facebook, Twitter, and Google in the same way. Hillary Clinton built a large in-house staff to execute digital media on the campaign, but with a lean staff, the Trump team likely benefited more from the help provided by the tech companies. The expertise these firms provided to the campaign’s general-election San Antonio office was particularly important, and days after the election, Trump’s digital director said Facebook played a “critical role” in its success.

«

link to this extract


iPhone 8, Qi wireless charging, and the challenge of open • Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin on the fact that it’s easy to misalign the iPhone 8/Plus on a wireless charging pad – in which case it doesn’t charge:

»

While many third parties disliked Apple’s MFI accessory program, the guidelines Apple had in place for third parties to create accessories for their products led to consistent experiences with third-party products and Apple products. At the moment, we don’t have the same situation with Qi Wireless charging. While Apple’s embracing of the Qi standard means they will certainly get involved and help drive the standard and the technology forward, for now, Apple runs the risk of having third-party solutions not meet their standards of an accessory that will work with iPhones.

Further observations on the challenge of open ecosystems lead us to both Microsoft and Google now going full steam ahead with their own hardware roadmap. I do find it interesting that both the largest open software platforms in history have led the companies who created them into the hardware market. Both Android and Windows have such diversity in offerings that you can have a quality experience with the platform and a sub-par one all with the same software platform. Both platforms have a great deal of inconsistency in their user experience. They do try to manage this by defining the hardware and software specs as much as possible but in open systems, you can only define your standard so far and still allow your partners to differentiate. It is a double-edged sword.

I view both Microsoft’s and Google’s efforts in hardware as strong evidence of the challenge open systems create and their attempts to address those challenges and provide a “best of” experience that they hope others aspire to duplicate.

«

OK, but in general, you do this wrong once and you don’t get it wrong again. But he is right: this isn’t an elegant solution at all, which is classic “open system” effects – cheaper wins.
link to this extract


Apple quietly acquired computer vision startup Regaind • TechCrunch

Romain Dillet:

»

Regaind has been working on a computer vision API to analyze the content of photos. Apple added intelligent search to the Photos app on your iPhone a couple of years ago. For instance, you can search for “sunset” or “dog” to get photos of sunsets and your dog.

In order to do this, Apple analyzes your photo library when you’re sleeping. When you plug your iPhone to a charger and you’re not using your iPhone, your device is doing some computing to figure out what’s inside your photos.

Regaind goes one step further and can tell you the technical and aesthetic values of your photos. For instance, if you shoot a bunch of photos in burst mode, Regaind could automatically find the best shot and use it as the main shot in your photo library. Regaind could also hide duplicates.

With this technology, Apple could improve the Memories tab in the Photos app. iOS automatically creates albums based on events, location and more. With Regaind, iOS could also look for photos that are visually similar, surface the best shot as a cover art and create a recap video with the best shots.

Interestingly, Regaind also analyzes your face to determine your gender, age and emotion. It’s unclear if Apple had enough time to leverage Regaind with iOS 11.

«

My guess: not. But this is likely to get incorporated laer.
link to this extract


Consumers want Apple’s iPhone X more than the iPhone 8, analyst says • TheStreet

Annie Palmer:

»

Apple’s iPhone X appears to be winning over more consumers than the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. 

That’s according to new data from RBC Capital Markets, which surveyed more than 4,000 people interested in buying an iPhone and found that 28% of respondents said they plan on purchasing the iPhone X. By comparison, about 17% said they want to buy an iPhone 8, while 20% intend on purchasing an iPhone 8 Plus. 

“Our survey helps confirm our thesis that the rich feature set and differentiated design of the iPhone X will enable a mix shift toward it despite its significant price premium,” RBC analyst Amit Daryanani wrote in a note to clients on Monday. “It is the most popular iPhone among our survey respondents with 28% planning to buy it.” 

Wall Street has been growing increasingly concerned that consumers aren’t buying the iPhone 8, in favor of waiting for the iPhone X. Reports suggested that there was substantially lower demand for the cheaper iPhone 8/8 Plus, due to only incremental changes to the phone’s form factor and features, compared to the iPhone X, which may represent the biggest overhaul in the iPhone’s design and functionality in several years.

«

The pent-up demand for the iPhone X is no surprise, though note that the demand for those three new models only adds up to 65%. So a third of would-be buyers are looking to older phones. What will be fun to watch is how supplies of the X are allocated between China, the US and Europe. I’d imagine its cachet will be enormous in China, and that to revive its sales there Apple will send a fair number of devices there rather than, say, Europe.
link to this extract


KGI: TrueDepth camera gives Apple 2.5 year lead over Android competitors • Mac Rumors

Juli Clover:

»

It will take Apple’s Android competitors up to two and a half years to replicate the functionality and user experience of the TrueDepth Camera in the iPhone X, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo told investors in a note shared this morning.

In a previous report, Kuo predicted it would take one to two years for competitors to catch up, but having watched Apple’s official technical demonstrations in detail, it’s now believed it will take longer to replicate the user experience.

The TrueDepth camera will give Apple a solid technological lead throughout 2018 and 2019, leading Kuo to say KGI has “full confidence” in the iPhone’s growth prospects in the high-end smartphone market over the next couple of years despite iPhone X constraints in 2017.

KGI Securities has revised its 2017 iPhone X shipping estimates from 40 million to 30-35 million units, but Kuo says the firm stands by its “positive outlook” on shipments of future iPhones equipped with the TrueDepth Camera.

Apple’s TrueDepth camera system enables its Face ID facial recognition system and other features like advanced face tracking and analysis for Animoji. Rumors suggest the difficulty of manufacturing the TrueDepth camera is what has led to significant iPhone X production issues, severely limiting initial available supply.

Apple’s competitors like Samsung and Google will also need to overcome these development and manufacturing hurdles to create a product that’s similar to the TrueDepth Camera. Samsung has already released a device with facial recognition capabilities, but it is inferior to Apple’s solution as it is limited to 2D tracking making it less secure and easy to fool.

«

link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up: Google’s algorithm blame, Amber’s crpyto confusion, polarised politics, and more


TfL reckons that it can make some serious money from your mobile use. Photo by canonsnapper on Flickr.

A selection of 9 links for you. Like the internet version of petrichor. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Tfl plans to make £322m by collecting data from passengers’ mobiles via Tube Wi-Fi • Sky

Tom Cheshire:

»

Transport for London (TfL) plans to make £322m by collecting Tube users’ location data and potentially selling it to third parties, Sky News can reveal. 

At the end of 2016, TfL ran a pilot which tracked the Wi-Fi signals from 5.6 million phones as people moved around the London Underground, even if they weren’t connected to a Wi-Fi network.

TfL publicly stated that the purpose of the scheme was to use the aggregated, anonymised data “to better understand how people navigate the London Underground network, allowing TfL to improve the experience for customers”.

It is now in consultation about tracking passengers on a permanent basis. The only way to opt out of the scheme would be to turn your Wi-Fi or phone off.

Wi-Fi tracking is used around the UK, especially on high streets and shopping centres, to track customers as they move around a store, for example.

However, documents obtained under Freedom of Information laws show that they also anticipate there will be a significant financial benefit from the scheme, in contrast to TfL’s public messaging.

«

The FOI seems to suggest that it would realise the money by being able to say how many people had seen ads. This seems rather weak. It already knows how many people go up and down the escalators and on to the platforms.
link to this extract


Google’s top stories promoted misinformation about the Las Vegas shooting from 4Chan [updated] • Gizmodo 

»

One might assume that the carousel of stories at the top of your Google search would be the most relevant and credible links based on their query, but to make that very reasonable assumption would be a mistake. The criteria for what gets a spot in the highly-coveted space remains vague. The links certainly don’t have to be factually accurate, given that a climate change denial story has appeared in the module. And it’s also evident that the system can be gamed. In February, a LinkedIn blogger wrote over 150 articles about how to stream the Super Bowl consisting of nonsensical strings of keywords aimed at fooling Google’s search algorithm. It worked.

Today, Google helped further the agenda of the far-right by promoting their threads misidentifying the gunman. If the search giant comments at all, it will likely blame the mishap on an improperly audited algorithm. But as people turn to Google’s search bar for information on the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, the tech behemoth has a responsibility to ensure its users aren’t being led astray by a bunch of neo-Nazis.

Update 12:15pm: A Google spokesperson provided the following statement:

»

“Unfortunately, early this morning we were briefly surfacing an inaccurate 4chan website in our Search results for a small number of queries. Within hours, the 4chan story was algorithmically replaced by relevant results. This should not have appeared for any queries, and we’ll continue to make algorithmic improvements to prevent this from happening in the future.”

«

«

What’s fabulous is that Gizmodo correctly predicted how Google would blame this on an algorithm. Well, yeah. What that slides past is how impossible it seems to be to test these for undesirable effects.
link to this extract


Amber Rudd says she doesn’t need to “understand how encryption works” to know it needs changing • Buzzfeed

Mark di Stefano:

»

Home secretary Amber Rudd has declared she doesn’t need to “understand how encryption works” to see how it’s helping criminals, as she continues to make the case for a crackdown on end-to-end encryption messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and iMessage.

Rudd made the comments during the Spectator magazine’s debate about internet freedom and encryption at the Conservative party’s annual conference in Manchester on Monday night.

Asked by a party member whether members of her government actually understood how encryption worked and the difficulties in forcing a change on global tech giants who owned the platforms like Facebook and Google, Rudd replied: “I don’t need to understand how encryption works to understand how it’s helping, end-to-end encryption, the criminals.”

She said it was easy to “patronise” her colleagues when it came to their understanding of end-to-end encryption: “We will do our best to understand it.”

She went on: “I do feel that there is a sea of criticism for any of us in politics who try to legislate in new areas… [we] will automatically be sneered at and laughed at for not getting it right.”

«

“We don’t need to understand how public funding works” “We don’t need to understand how the bond market works” “We don’t need to understand how railways work”. None of those would be defensible from a politician. Why is this?
link to this extract


First click free is dead, but is its replacement really any better for publishers? • Distilled

Will Critchlow on the likely effects of Google ending “first click free”. FCF was Google’s demand that publishers, even (especially) those with paywalls, should make it possible to surmount those paywalls by clicking through from Google, even though Google didn’t pay the publishers any money and told them that if they prevented people getting that “first click free” (actually three clicks, mandatory, per day) they would be downgraded in search rankings:

»

Publishers are calling this a win. My view is that the new Google scheme offers:

1) Something that looks very like what was in place before (“metering”)

2) Something that looks very like what pulling out of FCF looked like (“lead-in”)

And demands in return a huge amount of structured data which will cement Google’s position, allow them to maintain an excellent user experience without sending more traffic to publishers, and start them down a path to even more aggregation.

If paywalls are to be labelled in the search results [as Critchlow expects], publishers will definitely see a drop in traffic compared to what they received under FCF. The long-term possibility of a “Spotify for Publishers” bundle will likely be little solace in the interim.

«

Yet at the same time, Google admits that “while FCF is a reasonable sampling model, publishers are in a better position to determine what specific sampling strategy works best for them.” The FT’s chief commercial officer says that “it’s extremely clear that advertising alone can no longer pay for the production and distribution high-quality journalism”.

FCF has been in place since 2008. That’s nine years during which Google has essentially told publishers that if they don’t allow it, they’ll pretty much vanish from search. And now it says that maybe publishers know best?

(Ben Thompson’s subscription newsletter at Stratechery.com has some very incisive thoughts on this topic.)
link to this extract


Congress’ most liberal, conservative members have more Facebook followers • Pew Research Center

»

In both legislative chambers, members’ ideology is a strong predictor of the number of people who follow them on Facebook. The most liberal and most conservative House members had a median of 14,361 followers as of July 25, compared with 9,017 followers for those in the middle of the ideological spectrum. The median number of followers for the Senate’s most liberal and conservative lawmakers was 78,360, while moderates had 32,626. (These figures reflect each member’s total number of followers since the creation of their official Facebook page, not the number gained since the 115th Congress began.)

The Center’s analysis determines each lawmaker’s ideology based on a score calculated through their congressional roll call votes. This widely employed measure, created by two political scientists in the 1980s, assigns each member a score that falls between -1 (most liberal) and +1 (most conservative).

«

Consider what this means: on social media, the extreme voices on either side tend to be heard by more people. They’re also the ones who are least likely to compromise. What does this say for politics, notionally “the art of the possible”?

(As ever, I’d like to see a version of this for the UK.)
link to this extract


Tinkering with Twitter feeds the agnostic view of its offering • FT

Helen Lewis:

»

For anyone with thousands of followers, the big complaint is about feeling overwhelmed. There are too many notifications, too much abuse, too much damn noise.

But most Twitter users have the opposite problem. New joiners are encouraged to follow sports stars, actors and news brands, all of whom use the network for one-way broadcasting rather than engagement and replies.

It’s not like Facebook, where your existing relationships — friends, old classmates, colleagues — give you a ready-made audience. For too many users, it feels as though they are tweeting into the void.

Addictive as Twitter might be to its hardcore fans, it’s tough to get hooked. The latest figures showed that user growth has stalled at 328m active users a month (for comparison, Facebook claims 2bn).

Social media is very good at showing you a VIP party happening behind a velvet rope, and then making clear you’re outside it. Instagram is full of blue skies, sleek hotel rooms and aspirational smoothies; YouTubers such as Zoella seem to live in a perpetual shower of freebies, thanks to their “kind friends” at this or that brand. The buzzword for the feeling this creates is fomo — fear of missing out.

It’s a modern emotion created to serve capitalism, because the one thing that links all the big social media platforms is their reliance on advertising as a business model.

«

The point about the emptiness of the “onboarding” experience for new users is key: Twitter overlooked this for years, and in some ways that may have made it less resilient – because the network of real users wasn’t strong enough – when the bots and attackers came along. Doubling the length of tweets will make no difference at all to this, apart from making it harder to scan quickly.
link to this extract


Central banking and fintech – a brave new world? • IMF

Christine LaGarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, in a speech at the Bank of England recently:

»

For now, virtual currencies such as Bitcoin pose little or no challenge to the existing order of fiat currencies and central banks. Why? Because they are too volatile, too risky, too energy intensive, and because the underlying technologies are not yet scalable. Many are too opaque for regulators; and some have been hacked.

But many of these are technological challenges that could be addressed over time. Not so long ago, some experts argued that personal computers would never be adopted, and that tablets would only be used as expensive coffee trays. So I think it may not be wise to dismiss virtual currencies.

For instance, think of countries with weak institutions and unstable national currencies. Instead of adopting the currency of another country—such as the U.S. dollar—some of these economies might see a growing use of virtual currencies. Call it dollarization 2.0.

IMF experience shows that there is a tipping point beyond which coordination around a new currency is exponential. In the Seychelles, for example, dollarization jumped from 20% in 2006 to 60% in 2008.

And yet, why might citizens hold virtual currencies rather than physical dollars, euros, or sterling? Because it may one day be easier and safer than obtaining paper bills, especially in remote regions. And because virtual currencies could actually become more stable.

For instance, they could be issued one-for-one for dollars, or a stable basket of currencies. Issuance could be fully transparent, governed by a credible, pre-defined rule, an algorithm that can be monitored…or even a “smart rule” that might reflect changing macroeconomic circumstances.

So in many ways, virtual currencies might just give existing currencies and monetary policy a run for their money.

«

The key problem with virtual currencies has been stability of value, and the problems of exchanges, plus the limits on transaction volume (or speed). But if she thinks that citizens might “one day” hold virtual currencies, she’s dreaming. That’s already happening.
link to this extract


Europol warns ransomware has taken cybercrime ‘to another level’ • Tripwire

Graham Cluley:

»

Europol is right to highlight the significant impact that ransomware is having on business and home computers alike.

As we have previously discussed, multinationals like household goods manufacturer Reckitt Benckiser, and the Maersk shipping conglomerate have reported that the attacks have caused $100m and $300m in lost revenue respectively.

Meanwhile the impact felt by the WannaCry ransomware earlier in the year on the UK’s National Health Service and other large organisations is well-documented.

It’s no wonder that Europol is calling for more resources to be put in place around the world to target cybercrime gangs, and for greater co-ordination between law enforcement agencies.

«

There’s an 80-page Europol report – INTERNET ORGANISED CRIME THREAT ASSESSMENT (IOCTA) 2017 – if you have some time. It’s not all about ransomware. The overview it gives of online crime is quite a thing. And its note early on that the US’s slow rollout of PIN systems for cards makes it the prime location for cashing out stolen cards is an eye-opener too.
link to this extract


Commentary: Will micro LED feature on Apple devices? • Digitimes

Siu Han and Adam Hwang:

»

Apple has unveiled Apple Watch Series 3 characterized by a built-in eSIM (embedded SIM) chip which independently connects the device with LTE networks for voice communications and playing Apple Music without via iPhone. However, Apple Watch 3 still faces a challenge: high power consumption for screen display.

Micro LED panels have advantages of low power consumption, high resolution, quick response and high luminance. Micro LED panels consume 90% less powr than LCD and 50% less than OLED. Micro LED could be the best solution of power consumption problem for Apple Watch.

Through acquiring US-based LuxVue Technology, Apple has acquired patented micro LED technology, especially that for mass transfer. In February 2017, Apple acquired a patent of fingerprint recogniton on micro LED panels via LuxVue, signaling Apple’s continued R&D of micro LED technology. But some reports have claimed that Apple, after LuxVue encountered bottlenecks in mass transfer, has withdrawn some of its technological staff working at a micro LED lab in northern Taiwan.

While Taiwan-based PlayNitride plans to kick off trial production of micro LED panels in the fourth quarter of 2017, there are many problems to solve for making such production at low cost and high yield rates. But many industry experts believe Apple, thanks to its abundant resources, is way ahead of small startups in micro LED development.

«

Apparently microLED is good for standby and outdoor legibility; good for small panels, not so much for larger ones.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: only the Apple TV generation 4 and onwards can run independent apps and tvOS. So the Amazon Video Developer cited yesterday was correct, as were other readers.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

Start Up: Facebook’s fake defence, awaiting Amazon’s TV app, Google get Showy, and more


LG says it has a phone which can repel mosquitoes in India. You’re allowed to be sceptical. Photo by Wellcome Images on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 12 links for you. Ain’t no lie. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Zuckerberg’s preposterous defense of Facebook • The New York Times

Zeynp Tufekci:

»

Are you bothered by fake news, systematic misinformation campaigns and Facebook “dark posts” — micro-targeted ads not visible to the public — aimed at African-Americans to discourage them from voting? You must be one of those people “upset about ideas” you disagree with.

Are you troubled when agents of a foreign power pose online as American Muslims and post incendiary content that right-wing commentators can cite as evidence that all American Muslims are sympathizers of terrorist groups like the Islamic State? Sounds like you can’t handle a healthy debate.

Does it bother you that Russian actors bought advertisements aimed at swing states to sow political discord during the 2016 presidential campaign, and that it took eight months after the election to uncover any of this? Well, the marketplace of ideas isn’t for everyone.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s preposterous defense of Facebook’s failure in the 2016 presidential campaign is a reminder of a structural asymmetry in American politics. It’s true that mainstream news outlets employ many liberals, and that this creates some systemic distortions in coverage (effects of trade policies on lower-income workers and the plight of rural America tend to be underreported, for example). But bias in the digital sphere is structurally different from that in mass media, and a lot more complicated than what programmers believe.

In a largely automated platform like Facebook, what matters most is not the political beliefs of the employees but the structures, algorithms and incentives they set up, as well as what oversight, if any, they employ to guard against deception, misinformation and illegitimate meddling. And the unfortunate truth is that by design, business model and algorithm, Facebook has made it easy for it to be weaponized to spread misinformation and fraudulent content. Sadly, this business model is also lucrative, especially during elections. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, called the 2016 election “a big deal in terms of ad spend” for the company, and it was. No wonder there has been increasing scrutiny of the platform.

«

Tefekci has the rare ability to show how the behaviour and setups that so many companies believe are axiomatic are actually flawed. She’s like a human version of Gödel’s theorem.
link to this extract


How Apple can push augmented reality and Siri together with iOS 12 • Medium

Albert Choi wants it to be next September already; he’s imagining a “Lens” app from Apple which would activate AR innately:

»

Once you’re in the app, the camera will enable and a menu bar will appear. There will be three buttons: Explore, Siri, and Apps.

• Explore will show you top apps for Lens and also suggestion of preview apps. Download and quickly preview and demo an app.

• Siri works the same way as always. Use your voice to navigate and command through Lens.

•My Apps will show you all the apps that you’ve loaded onto Lens. If an app that you already have on your iPhone, it will migrate automatically to be compatible with Lens.

So when you activate Siri and ask it a question like “where is some places to eat?’’, in this case Lens will use Maps to help you look for a location. Using augmented reality, restaurant icons are shown at the location. If you prefer the Maps app, it can be accessed clicking the icon on the top right of your screen.

When clicking on any of the restaurant icons, you’ll see the information about the restaurant. With Lens, you’ll be able to receive AR based directions when driving (for passenger) or when walking. Maps will be able to provide you compatible indoor routes.

«

The maps example isn’t a huge advance on what we already have, to be honest. We’re still waiting for the first proper wave of AR apps to hit. (Perhaps Apple should create a category in the app store?)
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Analysis of Twitter Accounts • Luca Hammer

Hammer has provided a tool for analysing Twitter accounts – how often and when they tweet, who they respond to, what they use, how they tweet (RT, QT, etc) and so on. One for the bookmarks for investigative journalists.
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Pindrop says its AI-based phone fraud detection service is now 20% more accurate • VentureBeat

Blair Hanley Frank:

»

One of the key updates is a new voiceprinting capability that identifies who’s on the phone and checks the caller against a set of people Pindrop has identified as fraudsters. The company is also offering its customers a new Network capability that will provide real-time predictions about how likely a call is to be fraudulent, based in part on information gleaned from other Pindrop customers.

This feature is based on Pindrop’s Phoneprinting capabilities, which will be upgraded with this release. Phoneprinting works by analyzing call audio and using key factors to determine how likely the person on the other end of the line is to be a fraudster. The updated features should be up to 20% more accurate than their predecessors, according to Pindrop.

Phone-based fraud is a massive problem around the world since scammers can call from anywhere and try to get sensitive data, perform financial transactions, and pull off other nefarious deeds. It’s an attack that preys on the charitable instincts of the person on the other end of the call center phone — people who usually want to help. The company’s software is used to protect major enterprises, including banks like SunTrust.

«

I’d be interested to see this tested on a double blind test (where neither the person receiving the call in the call centre nor the person monitoring it knows if it’s real or fake, but the test does). Systems like this generally don’t get sufficiently rigorous testing, because people love the idea of identifying fraudsters by a sort of magic.
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The truth about Amazon Prime Video on Apple TV : appletv • Reddit

An anonymous person describing themselves as “AmazonVideoEngineer”:

»

Wanted to make this throwaway account after yesterday’s debacle. I saw many people get upset so I wanted to issue this warning: do not expect Amazon to launch [its app for Apple TV] before October 26th. The app is done, and has been done for months already. However there are a lot of politics going on beyond my pay grade that are pushing the launch back. And just to clarify, October 26 is the earliest I would expect it. Launch could be pushed well into November.

«

Further says it will only work on the 4th-generation (released 2015) and the latest 4K model: “Even if we wanted to, we couldn’t support older models since Apple has control over the design of those apps.” (Not sure this is correct; if you can install tvOS 4, the latest one, it should work.)

Take this with a pinch of salt, but it all rings true. If Amazon wants more people to watch Amazon Video, Apple TV is the way to go.
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Envelope tracking ICs: increasing power efficiency and other benefits to the mobile ecosystem • IHS Technology

Brad Shaffer and Wayne Lam:

»

The battery life of a smartphone is under attack. The Lithium polymer battery in a smartphone simply hasn’t been able to keep up with the growing requirements of demanding users. Increasing screen sizes and use cases such as video consumption, as well as camera and navigation based applications are putting increasing amounts of stress on the battery life of mobile devices. Battery capacity can be increased but the aforementioned changes in smartphone design and usage scenarios could more than offset increases in battery capacity alone. IHS Markit has seen the average battery capacity increase as the typical smartphone screen size has grown larger, in fact; battery capacity has increased at a rate twice as fast as screen size over the same period, highlighting the importance of achieving the longest possible battery life with each device design.

Battery capacity won’t continue to rise perpetually. The average screen size of a smartphone will reach a peak between 5.5 and 6 inches in the future; and as a smartphone’s screen size generally provides a footprint limitation for battery size, battery capacity will also begin to level off and OEM focus will shift to power efficiency.

«

This is a quite detailed and technical post, but one can get value just from the points about battery capacity. Power efficiency is definitely going to be the thing now.
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What a nerdy debate about p-values shows about science — and how to fix it • Vox

Brian Resnick:

»

Most casual readers of scientific research know that for results to be declared “statistically significant,” they need to pass a simple test. The answer to this test is called a p-value. And if your p-value is less than .05 — bingo, you got yourself a statistically significant result.

Now a group of 72 prominent statisticians, psychologists, economists, sociologists, political scientists, biomedical researchers, and others want to disrupt the status quo. A forthcoming paper in the journal Nature Human Behavior argues that results should only be deemed “statistically significant” if they pass a higher threshold.

“We propose a change to P < 0.005,” the authors write. “This simple step would immediately improve the reproducibility of scientific research in many fields.”

This may sound nerdy, but it’s important. If the change is accepted, the hope is that fewer false positives will corrupt the scientific literature. It’s become too easy — using shady techniques known as p-hacking and outcome switching — to find some publishable result that reaches the .05 significance level.

“There’s a major problem using p-values the way we have been using them,” says John Ioannidis, a Stanford professor of health research and one of the authors of the paper. “It’s causing a flood of misleading claims in the literature.”

«

That sort of threshold would put a ton of social scientists out of work, or at least out of research. A colossal move if implemented.
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BHP, world’s largest miner, says 2017 is ‘tipping point’ for electric cars • Reuters

Clara Ferreira-Marques and Gavin Maguire:

»

[Chief commercial officer at global miner BHP, Arnoud] Balhuizen said he expected the electric vehicle boom would be felt – for producers – first in copper, where supply will struggle to match increased demand. The world’s top mines are aging and there have been no major discoveries in two decades.

The market, he said, may have underestimated the impact on the red metal: fully electric vehicles require four times as much copper as cars that run on combustion engines.

BHP, Balhuizen said, is well-placed, with assets like Escondida and Spence in Chile, and Olympic Dam in Australia. BHP said last month it was spending $2.5bn to extend the life of the Spence mine in northern Chile by more than 50 years.

«

How fortunate for copper miners that just as demand for the stuff goes away in phone lines – replaced by wireless and fibre – a new opportunity arises.
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LG is releasing a mosquito-repellent phone, but it probably won’t work • Ars Technica UK

Samuel Axon:

»

LG has launched a new smartphone, the LG K7i, that the company says will repel mosquitoes using ultrasonic waves. The company claims the device addresses a real concern in the phone’s target market—India—but many scientists say the underlying tech does not, in fact, repel mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes are a nuisance in parts of India, and in some cases they carry diseases like dengue fever and the chikungunya virus, which have become common in urban centers. Malaria is also a risk in India. LG is selling consumer electronics devices in India, and it has been marketing a technology called “Mosquito Away,” which claims to repel the mosquitos. The tech has previously appeared in air conditioners and other LG products, and now it’s a key part of the LG K7i’s marketing. LG says its tests of the LG K7i repelled “on average 72% of disease-spreading mosquitoes,” according to CNN.

However, the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) and other groups say it won’t work. Texas A&M University entomology professor Dr. Roger Gold spent years running studies that have debunked ultrasonic bug repellant as well. According to the AMCA: “At least 10 studies in the past 15 years have unanimously denounced ultrasonic devices as having no repellency value whatsoever.”

«

So if someone uses this and develops a mosquito-borne disease LG will presumably say it was one of the 28%? More generally, this steers perilously close to conning people.
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Boy swallows squeaky toy • Boing Boing

Rob Beschizza:

»

The video embed here depicts exactly what you already suspect it will: a somewhat frustrated young boy, having swallowed part of a squeaky toy, being made to squeak by a person presumably intending to remove it (but not yet).

https://streamable.com/t8sem/ufnhvf

«

Best guess at how is that he was taking a really deep inhalation in order to blow out really hard through one of those party toys which makes this noise. And the squeaker got caught up in the intake.

It is like something out of Toy Story 2, though. I’m sure the medics among us will explain that it’s very dangerous, and we won’t be surprised.

But it is still amusing.
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An ex-Google Engineer is founding a religion to worship AI. He’s decades too late • ExtremeTech

Joel Hruska:

»

The headlines on this one could almost write themselves. Anthony Levandowski, the disgraced former Google engineer whose copying of trade secrets led Waymo (Alphabet’s self-driving car company) to file a lawsuit against Uber for $1.86 billion, founded an organization called “Way of the Future” back in 2015. Its purpose, according to state filings, was to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence.”

At first glance, the idea seems utterly preposterous. But I’d argue Levandowski’s mistake isn’t his dubious attempt to position a digital deity as a substitution for the decidedly more analog versions of conventional religions. It’s in failing to realize that he’s decades too late. People already do so.

Ever since the dawn of modern computing, computers have been viewed and portrayed as offering better-than human capabilities in many respects. The original meaning of the word “computer” dates to 1613 and meant “one who computes.” Human computers were used to create trigonometry and logarithms at the end of the 19th century, as well as to research fluid dynamics and meteorology. As digital computers became more powerful in the mid-20th century, the human definition was supplanted by the idea that a computer was a thing that computed rather than a person. As Betty Jennings, one of the women who worked on ENIAC in the early 1940s, observed, “ENIAC (considered one of the first, if not the first, electronic, general-purpose computers) calculated the trajectory faster than it took the bullet to travel.”

«

When I saw the headline, I thought he meant that he was late to the game because L. Ron Hubbard cornered the market for made-up sci-fi religions decades ago. (Obviously, all religions are made up. Hubbard’s just happens to be the first post-Jetsons one.)

There’s also a tiny part of me thinking this would be a brilliant ploy to bring up in court as evidence if one were pleading a defence of mental incapability and/or insanity. Not of course that I’m suggesting anything of the sort about Mr Levandowski.
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Google is building a smart screen competitor to Amazon’s Echo Show • TechCrunch

Josh Constine:

»

Multiple sources tell TechCrunch that Google is building a tabletop smart screen for video calling and more that will compete with Amazon’s Echo Show. The device could help Google keep up in the race for the smart home market after Amazon just revealed a slew of new Echos and as Facebook continues to work on its codename “Aloha” video calling screen.

Two sources confirm to TechCrunch that the Google device has been internally codenamed “Manhattan” and will have a similar screen size to the 7in Echo Show. One source received info directly from a Google employee. Both sources say the device will offer YouTube, Google Assistant, Google Photos and video calling. It will also act as a smart hub that can control Nest and other smart home devices.

Our sources say that Google previously was working on products with larger screens that would compete with full-sized televisions, but it’s now more focused on the Manhattan device. We’re told that the original target launch date was mid-2018. But due to the Echo Show there’s intense internal pressure to get this launched in 2017, though it may still end up released in 2018. That’s because there are a ton of moving parts to establishing the smart hub partnerships, plus it’s exploring the possibility of service partnerships with Best Buy Geek Squad and Enjoy for home installation.

«

Seriously, what is the point of this? Just buy a cheap Android tablet, put it on a stand in the kitchen, you’re done. If Google is this worried by every turn Amazon makes, it needs to do some strategic thinking.

Also, “Google was working on products with larger screens that would compete with full-sized televisions”? Isn’t that Google TV, or Android TV, or whatever it’s called this week? This is nuts.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up: Ballmer basketballer, Twitter Senate discomfort, the past’s future, wearables galore! and more


Fast-forward ten years, and what will be in the phone Apple unveils? We already have clues. Photo by portalgda on Flickr.

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 10 links for you. The last of the month! I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Six things to know about Steve Ballmer, youth basketball coach • The Ringer

Zach Schwartz used to be on the year 3 (8-9 year-olds) basketball team in Bellevue, Washington state:

»

Steve went beyond helping us develop the basic fundamentals. He worked on our shooting form and was the first coach who had us running sprints after practice to ensure that we would be ready to finish strong in the fourth quarter. Steve took coaching seriously and even brought in an NBA shooting coach to help us with our form. Steve loved the team, and we loved playing for Steve. He was running one of the most successful companies on earth and still making time to coach us. He never missed one of our games. Our team was legendary within Microsoft circles because of the lengths that Steve would go to in making sure that he attended our games. He’d do a video interview on CNBC from China on a Friday, then take a red-eye back to the States and head straight to the gym to coach us.

«

It’s pretty easy to forget that people who have real drive spread that drive all through their life. Ballmer really is bigger than he appears. It would have been easy for him to shrug off some of the responsibility. He didn’t.
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Twitter finds hundreds of accounts tied to Russian operatives • The Washington Post

Elizabeth Dwoskin, Adam Entous and Karoun Demirjian:

»

Twitter has shut down 201 accounts that were tied to the same Russian operatives who posted thousands of political ads on Facebook, the company told congressional investigators in a meeting Thursday and revealed in a blog in the afternoon.

The company also found three accounts from the news site RT — which Twitter linked to the Kremlin — that spent $274,100 in ads on Twitter’s platform in 2016.

The meeting between the company and Congressional investigators was part of a widening government probe into how Russian operatives used Facebook, Google, Twitter and other social media platforms to sow division and disinformation during the 2016 campaign. Those companies are under increasing pressure from Capitol Hill to investigate Russian meddling on their platforms and are facing the possibility of new regulations that could impact their massive advertising businesses.

Still, some lawmakers have raised questions over the tech industry grasps the serious nature of the problem.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said Twitter’s presentation to a closed door meeting of lawmakers from the Senate and House was “deeply disappointing” and “inadequate on almost every level.”

«

Only 201? I’d have thought it would be about a thousand times more at least.
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iPhone XX futurology • Medium

Mike Rundle:

»

Ten years from now, in 2027, an Apple executive will once again grace the stage to show eager fans the new iPhone. This iPhone will be the 20th anniversary model with 20 years of improvements, refinements and technological achievements under its belt.

In this piece I’ll lay out what I believe this iPhone XX will look like and how it will fit into an accelerating future of technology.

This is not a sci-fi article. The iPhone of 2007 and the iPhone of 2017 look generally similar to one another, so let’s talk about some off-the-wall futuristic iPhone ideas and why I don’t believe we’ll be seeing them in 2027.

Why still a rectangle and not a square? Or a circle? First, books are not squares or circles, they’re rectangles. Humans read text on a page in a particular way and I believe a portrait screen ratio will be sticking around for at least the next ten years.

Why still think there will even be an iPhone? What about AR glasses and VR goggles and flying cars? Technology doesn’t move as fast as people think. 100 years ago people were convinced we’d be living in colonies on Mars and food would materialize from pills. Instead we haven’t put a person on a new celestial body in 50 years and Soylent not only tastes bad but made people sick. The iPhone will still be around in 2027 and will still mostly look like the smartphones we use today.

That’s not to say that VR goggles and AR glasses won’t exist in 10 years, they just won’t be replacing the devices in our pockets.

«

This is loooong but it’s all based on patents Apple has filed; ten years isn’t a long time in that timeframe. And previous patents pointed to how things would change.
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1992: the executive computer – ‘mother of all markets’ or a ‘pipe dream driven by greed’? • NYTimes.com

Peter Lewis, in July 1992:

»

“We are writing Chapter 2 of the history of personal computers,” said Nobuo Mii, vice president and general manager of the International Business Machines Corporation’s entry systems division.

How rich is this lode? At one end of the spectrum is John Sculley, the chief executive of Apple Computer Inc., who says these personal communicators could be “the mother of all markets.”

At the other end is Andrew Grove, the chairman of the Intel Corporation, the huge chip maker based in Santa Clara, Calif. He says the idea of a wireless personal communicator in every pocket is “a pipe dream driven by greed.”

These devices are expected to combine the best features of personal computers, facsimile machines, computer networks, pagers, personal secretaries, appointment books, address books and even paperback books and pocket CD players — all in a hand-held box operated by pen, or even voice commands.

Stuck in traffic on a business trip, an executive carrying a personal communicator could send and receive electronic mail and facsimile messages from anywhere in the country. She could also call up a local map on a 3-inch by 5-inch screen, draw a line between her current position (confirmed by satellite positioning signals) and her intended destination, and the device would give her specific driving instructions (as well as real-time warnings about traffic jams or accidents). Certainly, these are just predictions for now, but they sure are fun to think about.

«

I do hope you’re reading this on your personal communicator with a 3in by 5in screen while in traffic. The iPhone in particular was still 15 years away, but notice the difference in Apple’s and Intel’s view. This was, for most people, pre-internet too. Vision is difficult; patience to realise it, even more so.
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February 1985: Playboy Interview: Steve Jobs • Longform

David Sheff interviewed Jobs in 1985, at a time when hardly anyone had touched a PC, and the internet was still an academic pursuit:

»

Playboy: Those are arguments for computers in business and in schools, but what about the home?

Jobs: So far, that’s more of a conceptual market than a real market. The primary reasons to buy a computer for your home now are that you want to do some business work at home or you want to run educational software for yourself or your children. If you can’t justify buying a computer for one of those two reasons, the only other possible reason is that you just want to be computer literate. You know there’s something going on, you don’t exactly know what it is, so you want to learn. This will change: Computers will be essential in most homes.

Playboy: What will change?

Jobs: The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it into a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people—as remarkable as the telephone.

Playboy: Specifically, what kind of breakthrough are you talking about?

Jobs: I can only begin to speculate. We see that a lot in our industry: You don’t know exactly what’s going to result, but you know it’s something very big and very good.

«

Jobs was really good at describing big differences (mouse v keyboard: “If I want to tell you there is a spot on your shirt, I’m not going to do it linguistically: “There’s a spot on your shirt 14 centimeters down from the collar and three centimeters to the left of your button.” If you have a spot—“There!” [he points]—I’ll point to it. Pointing is a metaphor we all know.”) He was wise to give up the bow ties, though.
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FCC demands Apple ‘put the safety of the American people first’, activate iPhone FM radio • 9to5Mac

Zac Hall:

»

FCC Chairman Pai’s statement comes on the same day as the NAB (via Bloomberg) similarly pushing for Apple to enable FM radio on iPhones:

»

“Broadcasters are providing information on how to evacuate quickly, where flood waters are raging, how to get out of harm’s way if there’s a tornado or a hurricane,” said Dennis Wharton, a spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters. “The notion that Apple or anyone else would block this type of information is something that we find fairly troubling.”

«

While Apple isn’t commenting on the renewed requests, critics speculate that Apple’s thinking may be FM radio access would hurt its services business which includes Apple Music and streaming radio services over cellular.

In practice, FM radio access would likely still require a traditional antenna (the discontinued iPod nano featured FM radio access using the headphones as the antenna) and wouldn’t be as simple as just turning on the function.

«

Apple’s response: the iPhone 7 onwards don’t have FM radio chips or the antennae to receive FM signals “so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products”. Seems like the FCC chair is prone to being clueless.
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Emails show how an Ivy League prof tried to do damage control for his bogus food science • Buzzfeed

Stephanie Lee:

»

The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, a $22m federally funded program that pushes healthy-eating strategies in almost 30,000 schools, is partly based on studies that contained flawed — or even missing — data.

The main scientist behind the work, Cornell University professor Brian Wansink, has made headlines for his research into the psychology of eating. His experiments have found, for example, that women who put cereal on their kitchen counters weigh more than those who don’t, and that people will pour more wine if they’re holding the glass than if it’s sitting on a table. Over the past two decades he’s written two popular books and more than 100 research papers, and enjoyed widespread media coverage (including on BuzzFeed).

Yet over the past year, Wansink and his “Food and Brand Lab” have come under fire from scientists and statisticians who’ve spotted all sorts of red flags — including data inconsistencies, mathematical impossibilities, errors, duplications, exaggerations, eyebrow-raising interpretations, and instances of self-plagiarism — in 50 of his studies.

Journals have so far retracted three of these papers and corrected at least seven. Now, emails obtained by BuzzFeed News through public information requests reveal for the first time that Wansink and his Cornell colleague David Just are also in the process of correcting yet another study, “Attractive names sustain increased vegetable intake in schools,” published in Preventive Medicine in 2012.

«

Who could have guessed that headline-friendly “science” might be flawed?
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August 2001: One on one with Larry Page, CEO of Google • San Francisco Business Times

Lizette Wilson, back in August 2001, when the dot-com boom (remember that?) had turned to the ashes of the dot-com bust, yet Google was still standing:

»

Q: How do you come up with the relevancy search results?

LP: We use a whole bunch of techniques. We estimate the importance of the page, the font size, how close the words are together. We look at what other documents say about it at how good the links are. We probably do 30 such things like that.

Q: If you could make more money by doing paid placement in results, would you?

LP: No. We’d make money in the short term, but not the long term.

Q: How does advertising or “sponsored links” differ from paid placement in the eyes of the average user?

LP: It doesn’t and that’s the problem. We believe that advertising and editorial should be split. We do the best job we can with computers and such to give you best search result content. We don’t do pay for placement.

Q: Is that a moral stance or a business one?

LP: Both. We believe that the company that’s successful will be trusted. When people trust us, then we’ll make more money.

Q: What about advertising? Are you going after more of that revenue now?

LP: The sales part is fairly easy for us. We get a lot of incoming requests and generate a lot of incoming leads.

Q: Okay, what’s the hard part then?

It’s delivering amazing products for people and reading their minds and providing exactly what they want when they do a search.

«

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Why Google’s auction-based proposal does not comply with EC remedy requirements • Foundem

This is an interactive HTML presentation (hooray! The web lives!) by Foundem, the original – and successful – complainant against Google over how shopping searches are ranked.

Google, as noted previously, has suggested that to comply with the EC complaint, it will split its shopping service off from the rest of the business and bid for auctioned-off shopping ad slots.

This obviously doesn’t make any difference, unless it were to completely sell it off from Alphabet. Google wins if Google Shopping doesn’t win an auction slot, because it gets the ad revenue; Google wins if Google Shopping does get the auction slot, because people may click through. Google wins.

But there doesn’t seem to be any way to slice this satisfactorily if Google can sell shopping ad slots – as long, that is, as it suppresses shopping searches in the “organic” search results.
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Worldwide wearable device sales to grow 17% in 2017 • Gartner

»

Apple will continue to have the greatest market share of any smartwatch provider. However, as more providers enter the market, Apple’s market share will decrease from approximately a third in 2016 to a quarter in 2021. The announcement of a new Apple Watch expected in September may enable direct cellular connectivity for interacting with Siri, texting and transferring sensor data when the phone or Wi-Fi is not present.

We expect other consumer electronics brands such as Asus, Huawei, LG, Samsung and Sony to sell only 15% of smartwatches in 2021, because their brands do not have as strong an appeal as lifestyle brands for personal technologies.

Two sub-categories that Gartner expects to perform well are kids’ smartwatches and traditional watch brands, which will emerge as significant segments for smartwatches. Gartner expects kids’ smartwatches to represent 30% of total smartwatch unit shipments in 2021. These devices are targeted at children in the 2-to-13 year-old range, before parents provide them with a smartphone.

The other sub-category, which will account for 25% of smartwatch units by 2021, is fashion and traditional watch brands. “Luxury and fashion watch brands will offer smartwatches in an attempt to attract younger customers,” said Ms. McIntyre. A final sub-category is represented by the startup and white-label brands (e.g., Archos, Cogito, Compal, Martian, Omate or Quanta), which will account for 5% of smartwatch unit sales in 2021.

«

Gartner reckons the smartwatch market in 2021 will be 81m units – so if Apple has a quarter of it, that’s 20.3m units. Comparison now: Gartner expects all smartwatches will sell 41.5m units, and Apple has about a third – that’s 13.8m units. It’s growth, though hardly dramatic.

This analysis throws in everything, including Bluetooth headsets. Though note: “By 2021, we assume that almost all premium mobile phones will no longer have the 3.5 mm jack,” according to Angela McIntyre at Gartner.

Also, I wouldn’t expect many of the traditional Android OEMs still to be in the smartwatch market by 2021. Samsung yes, Huawei maybe. For the others, there’s too little volume.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Start Up: Amazon can’t Show YouTube, the Nadellas at home, downgrade to 280Twitter!, and more


We have some bad (well, slow) news about Andy Rubin’s Essential phone – you know, the other phone that has a notch. Photo by portalgda on Flickr.

A selection of 12 links for you. That’s not a baker’s dozen. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Amazon slashes price of new Echo speaker, adds better sound • Bloomberg

Mark Gurman:

»

The new speaker has a dedicated woofer and tweeter for improved music playback as well as a new set of far-field microphones to better hear what users are saying, Amazon said at an event in Seattle on Wednesday. The new version comes in six different colors, Amazon said.

The new Echo costs $99, a significant price drop from the current model’s $180 price. It’s available today from Amazon’s website, said Dave Limp, who runs the company’s Alexa and Echo lines. There will also be a two-pack available that saves consumers $50.

The better sound takes on new speakers from companies including Apple Inc. and Alphabet’s Google. Apple will release its HomePod speaker with Siri integration and loud speakers for Apple Music later this year, while Google is expected to unveil a smaller Home speaker in October.

«

I wonder how big the market for Echo-style devices is. At one time, it seemed as though Kindles would take over the world; but they stopped dead at about a third of the total addressable market in the west (many given as gifts, and not really used), and are now shrinking. Amazon has definitely done clever work by grabbing the home space while Google and Apple were tying up the smartphone market.
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Google pulls YouTube from Amazon’s Echo Show device • Tech Narratives

Jan Dawson:

»

Though Amazon says the decision was unilateral and unexplained, Google said the implementation of YouTube on the Echo Show violated its terms of service, which makes you wonder whether the companies launched in a hurry and agreed to settle terms later, or whether Amazon simply built the YouTube app without Google’s input and hoped it wouldn’t mind. My guess is that the ToS violation in question here revolves around the lack of options for managing a YouTube account – I sent my Echo Show back after testing it for a review, but if I recall correctly, many of the standard YouTube features on other platforms were not available there, which was reflective of the Echo Show’s broad limitations on interactivity and functionality, something I pointed out in my review. YouTube was in some ways very much behind a platform wall which Amazon erected in front of it, and it seems Google finally decided it had had enough.

It’s worth remembering that Google and Amazon compete directly across several areas and have limited their cooperation in several others as a result: they compete in voice assistants and devices, for starters, but also in cloud services, in product search, in tablets (albeit indirectly), in grocery deliveries, in TV boxes, and so on.

«

Google gets very antsy about people not letting YouTube do everything it wants, especially grab data and show tons of ads.
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Essential has sold just 5,000 phones since launch: BayStreet • FierceWireless

Mike Dano:

»

Essential Products has sold an estimated 5,000 phones since the gadget made its big retail debut in the United States earlier this month, according to estimates from BayStreet Research. That figure would put Essential well below market heavyweights like Apple and Samsung, which typically sell tens of millions of phones per quarter in the United States.

BayStreet tracks shipments of phones and other devices across the United States. Essential representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment on the BayStreet estimates.

Essential, the first major startup from Android founder Andy Rubin’s venture capital firm Playground, currently sells the $699 Android-powered Essential Phone through Sprint and promises to release the Essential Home smart-home hub later this year. Essential was named as one of FierceWireless’ top 15 startups to watch in 2017.

«

And Sprint is the only major carrier selling it. The company is valued at over $1bn – on the basis of getting a $3m investment from Foxconn’s FIH Mobile for 0.25%. Might be a company to watch in 2018 to see if it survives.
link to this extract


Satya and Anu Nadella open up about their family life • Good Housekeeping

Jane Francisco:

»

“My childhood was full of joy,” says Satya, who was raised in India and moved to the United States in 1988 to get his master’s degree in computer science. “My parents created an environment where they let me set my own pace and pursue what I wanted. It’s important to focus on what [our kids] need to thrive.” Take note, Tiger Moms!

“I’m the IT administrator of our family,” says Satya. The Nadellas set limits on screen time for their kids and also on what sites the children can go to. “We get reports on what they’ve been doing on their computers, and they know that,” says Satya. “So it’s very transparent.” Adds Anu,”Technology for entertainment is always going to be a negotiation in our house. How many movies, what kinds of video games.”

“Technology kept Zain [their first child, who was born following in-utero asphyxia and is quadriplegic] alive,” says Anu. “It means more than just something to waste time on.” It also gives him more control in his life now: For instance, with a light tap of his head on a sensor, he can choose his own music. And Microsoft’s new app, Seeing AI, helps people with visual impairment. “They can hold up their phone and it’ll ‘see’ people — interpret their emotions, interpret a menu,” says Satya. “[You can] cook with a recipe, go grocery shopping, read labels or walk into a conference room with confidence.”

“We both think children should have dogs,” says Anu. “There is a different sense of companionship and responsibility that comes with it — that emotional sense that there is a being waiting for you to come back.” Their puppy, Winston, almost a year old, is more than a family pet: He provides important emotional support for Zain. “It was impossible for us to think about getting him before, given everything else going on in our lives,” says Satya. “It’s been such a joy.”

“When Satya steps in the house, Dad’s home,” says Anu. “And Dad does homework with the kids, sits with us at the table. When we go to public places, he’s recognized, and the girls see that, but has it affected their everyday peace? I don’t think so. Our private lives are pretty private.”

«

It’s to promote his book “Hit Refresh”, but it’s an interesting interview. (Could have done with slightly less of Ms Francisco’s travel hassles at the start. But it’s probably hard to tell the editor she’s rambling on and you’re going to cut 200 words.)
link to this extract


PSA: Here’s how to get access to 280-character tweets before Twitter rolls it out to all • 9to5Mac

Ben Lovejoy:

»

The simplest approach, as TNW reported, is to run a Snippet in Chrome to instruct Tweetdeck to give you the new limit. Yep, you read that right: the limit is actually controlled on the client side, rather than on Twitter’s own servers.

Here are the site’s instructions:

• Load up Tweetdeck at tweetdeck.twitter.com.
• Head to View, hover over the Developer menu, and select Developer Tools.
• Find Sources and click on the » double chevrons to access Snippets.
• Once you open Snippets, click the ‘New Snippet’ button and copy/paste the following code in the empty window on the right.

«

The code is something of a slog. My objections: (a) you have to run Tweetdeck (b) in a browser window c) to produce the hateful 280-character tweets, which are already a blight.
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Software is a long con • emptywheel

Quinn Norton:

»

I had a conversation with a bridge engineer one evening not long ago. I said, “Bridges, they are nice, and vital, but they fall down a lot.”

He looked at me with a well-worn frustration and replied, “Falling down is what bridges do. It’s the fate of all bridges to fall down, if you don’t understand that, you don’t understand bridges.”

“Ok, I do understand that,” I replied. “But they fall down a lot. Maybe if we stepped back and looked at how we’re building bridges –”

“You can’t build a bridge that doesn’t fall down. That’s just not how bridges work”

I took a deep breath. “What if you could build a bridge that didn’t fall down as often?”

“Not practical — it’s too hard, and besides, people want bridges.” By now, he was starting to look bored with the conversation.

“I bet if you slowed down how you build bridges, you could make ones that lasted decades, even in some cases, centuries. You might have to be thoughtful, set more realistic expectations, do a lot more of the design of a bridge before you start building it, but..”

He interrupted me again. “Look, you’re not a bridge engineer, so you don’t really understand how bridges work, but people want bridges now. So no one is going to build a bridge like that, even if it were possible, and I’m not saying it is.”

“But people get hurt, sometimes die, on these bridges.”

“Bridges fall down. Sometimes people are on them when they do. That’s not my fault as a bridge engineer, that’s literally how gravity works,” he said…

…Just then, a friend of mine, also a writer, also interested in bridges, stopped by.

“Hey guys!” he said. “So it looks like there’s a crew of Russian bridge destroyers with hammers and lighters who are running around in the middle of the night setting fires to bridges and knocking off braces with hammers. They started in Ukraine but they’re spreading around the world now, and we don’t know if our bridges are safe. They’ve studied bridges carefully and they seem to be good at finding where they’re most flammable and which braces to knock off with their hammer.”

We both regarded my friend a long moment, letting it sink in. I turned back to the bridge engineer and said, “Maybe we need to make them out of non-flammable material and rivet them instead of using exposed braces and clamps.”

But he was already red in the face, eyes wide with anger and fear. “GET THE RUSSIANS!” he screamed.

«

Of course that’s only the beginning.
link to this extract


What’s going on With HEIF and Mac OS 10.13 “High Sierra” • The Shape Of Everything

Gus Mueller is author of Acorn, a terrific low-cost image-editing program for the Mac:

»

This past summer at WWDC, Apple introduced a new (to iOS and Mac OS) compression format for images named HEIF. HEIF is pretty neat because it allows for better compression compared to JPEG, without sacrificing quality. It’s got some other fun properties as well, but it’s not relevant to this post.

If you have an iPhone with an A10 Fusion processor or later (iPhone 7 and 8), you can turn on support for taking pictures in this format via the Settings app. iOS 11 also obviously adds support for viewing these files and includes APIs for developers which can write new images in that format.

Mac OS 10.13 High Sierra includes support for decoding and viewing HEIF images. There are no OS supplied libraries for writing or converting images to the HEIF format.

And because of this, Acorn currently only allows reading for HEIF files, not writing.

«

That’s.. weird. He has filed a Radar (bug report).
link to this extract


I asked Tinder for my data. It sent me 800 pages of my deepest, darkest secrets • The Guardian

Judith Duportail:

»

As I flicked through page after page of my data I felt guilty. I was amazed by how much information I was voluntarily disclosing: from locations, interests and jobs, to pictures, music tastes and what I liked to eat. But I quickly realised I wasn’t the only one. A July 2017 study revealed Tinder users are excessively willing to disclose information without realising it.

“You are lured into giving away all this information,” says Luke Stark, a digital technology sociologist at Dartmouth University. “Apps such as Tinder are taking advantage of a simple emotional phenomenon; we can’t feel data. This is why seeing everything printed strikes you. We are physical creatures. We need materiality.”

Reading through the 1,700 Tinder messages I’ve sent since 2013, I took a trip into my hopes, fears, sexual preferences and deepest secrets. Tinder knows me so well. It knows the real, inglorious version of me who copy-pasted the same joke to match 567, 568, and 569; who exchanged compulsively with 16 different people simultaneously one New Year’s Day, and then ghosted 16 of them.

“What you are describing is called secondary implicit disclosed information,” explains Alessandro Acquisti, professor of information technology at Carnegie Mellon University. “Tinder knows much more about you when studying your behaviour on the app. It knows how often you connect and at which times; the percentage of white men, black men, Asian men you have matched; which kinds of people are interested in you; which words you use the most; how much time people spend on your picture before swiping you, and so on. Personal data is the fuel of the economy. Consumers’ data is being traded and transacted for the purpose of advertising”…

…The trouble is these 800 pages of my most intimate data are actually just the tip of the iceberg. “Your personal data affects who you see first on Tinder, yes,” says [privacy activist Paul-Olivier] Dehaye. “But also what job offers you have access to on LinkedIn, how much you will pay for insuring your car, which ad you will see in the tube and if you can subscribe to a loan.”

«

link to this extract


Exclusive: Google is cracking down on sketchy rehab ads • The Verge

Cat Ferguson:

»

Around the country today, marketers in the $35bn addiction treatment industry woke up to an unpleasant surprise: Many of their Google search ads were gone. Overnight, the search giant has stopped selling ads against a huge number of rehab-related search terms, including “rehab near me,” “alcohol treatment,” and thousands of others. Search ads on some of those keywords would previously have netted Google hundreds of dollars per click.

“We found a number of misleading experiences among rehabilitation treatment centers that led to our decision, in consultation with experts, to restrict ads in this category,” Google told The Verge in a statement. “As always, we constantly review our policies to protect our users and provide good experiences for consumers.”

Google is the biggest source of patients for most treatment centers. Advertisers tell Google how much they want to spend on search ads per month, which keywords they’d like those ads to run against, and then pay Google every time someone clicks on their ad.

While many treatment centers market themselves ethically, there are also significant numbers of bad actors using deceptive and even illegal tactics to get “heads in beds.” [Early in September] The Verge published a story uncovering how marketers use the internet to hook desperate addicts and their families, from hijacking the Google business listings of other treatment centers to deceiving addicts about where a treatment center is located.

«

All credit to Ferguson and The Verge for the original, important, story which seems to have grabbed Google’s notice – though now read on for the Bloomberg detail about it.
link to this extract


Why it took Google so long to end shady rehab center ads • Bloomberg

Michael Smith , Jonathan Levin , and Mark Bergen:

»

Anti-Google sentiment was palpable at the Austin conference [in May], especially after [Google contractor Josh] Weum [who had advised on the best AdWords to use to attract people seeking opioid addiction treatment] told the crowd that it was hard for Google to cut off shady treatment providers unless someone tipped off the company. 

As the discussion wound down, Jeffrey Lynne, a lawyer in Boca Raton, Fla., had heard enough. Lynne, who specializes in advising addiction treatment centers, stood up and accused Google of not only enabling a dirty business but actively profiting from it. “Google has a fundamental responsibility to stop making money hand over fist by jacking up these ad prices because of an algorithm,” Lynne said, drawing applause from the crowd. “We need you to step up to the plate,” he said. “Because people are using you to human-traffic our children.” 

Weum, who hawked AdWords products for two years at a myriad of industry conferences, including several on addiction treatment, says he was shocked by the sense of outrage from people in the Austin hotel ballroom. “It really felt like I was being blamed for it,” he says. “I felt the full brunt of the anger with patient brokering.” One man sitting next to Weum on the same panel, Dan Gemp, wasn’t surprised. Gemp is chief executive officer of Dreamscape Marketing LLC, a Columbia, Md., company that specializes in running ad campaigns for addiction treatment providers. He’d filed multiple complaints with Google about treatment center operators who did such things as hack his clients’ websites to hijack potential patients.

«

The writers estimate that Google could have been pulling in around $1bn annually from these ads. But they also point out that people have been complaining to Google for ages about scams and crooks. The Verge writes a story and next week, poof.

There also seems to be a lesson here about big online advertising companies, self-service ad systems, and the lack of a tight customer feedback loop.
link to this extract


Even this data guru is creeped out by what anonymous location data reveals about us • Fast Company

DJ Pangburn:

»

Last fall [Buzzfeed vp of data science, Gilad] Lotan taught a class at New York University on surveillance that kicked off with an assignment like the one I’d given him: link anonymous location data with other data sets–from LinkedIn, Facebook, home registration and mortgage records, and other online data.

“It’s not hard to figure out who this [unnamed] person is,” says Lotan. In class, students found that tracking location data around holidays proved to be the easiest way to determine who, exactly, the data belonged to. “Basically,” he says, “visits to private homes that are owned and publicly registered.”

In 2013, researchers at MIT and the Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium published a paper reporting on 15 months of study of human mobility data for over 1.5 million individuals. What they found is that only four spatio-temporal points are required to “uniquely identify 95% of the individuals.” The researchers concluded that there was very little privacy even in raw location data. Four years later, their calls for policies rectifying concerns about location tracking have fallen largely on deaf ears.

Lotan worries about the availability of the data. “I think something that is important to tell in this story is how many services have access to this information.”

“There are so many apps on an iPhone that run in the background and persistently track your location. They tell you that, but most people don’t know.”

Some apps do it even when you’ve specifically denied them access (see Accuweather); some have stopped tracking you when you’re not using them but only after user protest (see, recently, Uber). And see the bottom of the story for tips on how to protect yourself.

«

The tips are basically “turn off location tracking”. (Lotan has previously figured here on the topics of fake news, fake claims over Twitter bots, and the strange case of the imaginary Isis attack in Louisiana.)
link to this extract


Geekbench chief: Android stagnates while iPhone soars • Tom’s Guide

Mark Spoonauer:

»

“The thing that I don’t fully understand is why performance has seemed to stagnate on the Android side,” said John Poole, founder of Primate Labs [which developed the Geekbench 4 benchmark for phones]. “Where you don’t see these big leaps forward. I don’t understand what’s happening there.”

On the multicore portion of the Geekbench 4 test, the iPhone 8’s A11 Bionic processor scored 10,170. The fastest Android phone we’ve tested, the Note 8, hit 6,564. That’s 54% slower. The iPhone 8 also blew away the Android competition on the 3DMark graphics test and on our own 4K video-editing test…

If you look at the Geekbench 4 numbers, the iPhone 8 is technically faster than the 13-inch MacBook Pro with a 7th-gen Intel Core i5 processor, but is that really the case? Yes and no.

“Everybody looks at the A11 scores and they go, ‘Holy crap, this is . . . what does this mean? Are these even comparable?’ said Poole. “Well, yes, they’re comparable, but at the same time, you’re not going to use your phone to render a huge video because, simply, the form factor doesn’t lend itself to it.”

Poole is referring to the difference between burst performance and sustained performance. Laptops can keep up their speeds for a longer period of time because they have active cooling. With an iPhone or other smartphone, the processor will eventually generate more heat than the case can dissipate.

But that doesn’t diminish what Apple has accomplished with the A11 Bionic chip. Whether it’s for 5 minutes or 10 minutes, the performance gap between iOS and Android has suddenly widened.

«

The question many are asking is how relevant this is; if all you’re doing is a bit of light Facebooking, will it make a difference? Except that there’s lots of new processing of photos and, soon, video (in AR) to come. So performance is going to make a difference.

If you don’t believe that, try using the phone you used to use before your last upgrade. It will feel excruciatingly slow. Performance matters.
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: On yesterday’s link about apps taking over from the mobile web on smartphones: as Stormyparis noted in a comment, a lot of that “app use” is probably people using Webviews – such as reading articles linked on Twitter or Facebook. That means that “mobile web” use, as in the viewing of sites via mobile devices, is probably higher than App Annie reports. There’s hope yet, web designers.

You could sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

Start Up: mobile web shrinks, TfL v Uber explained, the bitcoin ads, and more


Twitter is looking to double the length of tweets. Is that seriously a good idea? Photo by Daniel Morrison on Flickr.

A selection of 10 links for you. Don’t freak out. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

App Annie: App usage doubles in 2 years as mobile web fades • Mobile Marketer

Robert Williams:

»

Mobile app usage has doubled in the past two years to an average of two hours per day, boosting it to 7x the amount of time users spend on mobile web browsers, according to a study by App Annie made available to Mobile Marketer. The top 20% of people who use apps for the longest periods spend more than four hours a day with mobile apps.

Native mobile apps accounted for 88% of the time and 93% of sessions on Android phones worldwide, with the remainder being spent in mobile browsers, the study found. The preference for apps was seen among all age groups, not just millennials and teens, in every country surveyed during the first half of 2017.

«

The mobile web has been over for a long time. It just doesn’t know it.
link to this extract


Google to create shopping service unit to satisfy EU • Bloomberg

Aoife White:

»

Google will create a standalone unit for its shopping service and require it to bid against rivals for ads shown on the top of its search page, in an effort to satisfy European Union concerns over the display of product results, three people familiar with the investigation said.

Google faces a Thursday deadline to comply with an EU antitrust order for it to give equal treatment in how the search engine shows competitors’ comparison-shopping sites, according to the people, who asked not to be named as the negotiations are private. While the shopping service will remain part of Google, it will operate separately and use its own revenues to bid for ads.

Google was ordered by regulators to stop promoting its own shopping search results over competitors’ and to make changes by Sept. 28 designed to give rivals a better chance to compete, the EU said in June when it fined the company €2.4bn ($2.8bn). The company could be fined up to 5% of daily revenue if it fails to comply…

…While Google Shopping can bid for those slots, it will be run separately to ensure that its bids reflect its own operating costs and aren’t subsidized by Google. Regulators have accepted that the panel is for advertising and slots cannot be given away, the person said. Each slot will be labeled with the name of the service providing the link, such as “By Google,” similar to pages that showed up on French and Dutch versions of Google last week.

«

Not sure that this is going to satisfy rivals. But it might satisfy the EU.
link to this extract


James Dyson to build electric car by 2020 • Business Insider

Mohammed Hadi:

»

James Dyson, the billionaire inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner, said his company was building a “radical” all-electric car for launch in 2020, with a commitment to spend £2bn ($2.7bn) on solid-state battery technology and vehicle design.

Dyson said a 400-strong team of engineers had already spent two and a half years working on the secret project in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, developing the batteries that will power the in-house designed electric motor for the car.

He said on Tuesday he had not yet decided where the vehicle would be manufactured, although he had ruled out working with any existing auto companies.

«

Hmm. Dyson said it was going to have a robot vacuum cleaner for a long time, and it took longer than that to come up with it; and it isn’t available everywhere.

It’s comparatively easy for a well-funded company to make an electric car. The tricky thing is making lots of electric cars, and making a profit from them.
link to this extract


Understanding Uber: it’s not about the app • London Reconnections

“John Bull”:

»

One of the primary responsibilities of the taxi regulator in most locations is the consideration of passenger safety. This is very much the case in London – both for individual drivers and for operators.

The expectation of drivers is relatively obvious – that they do not break the law, nor commit a crime of any kind. The expectation of operators is a bit more complex – it is not just about ensuring that drivers are adequately checked before they are hired (and that those checks are processed by a mutually approved company), but also that their activity is effectively monitored while they are working. Just as importantly, the operator is responsible for making sure that any customer complaints are taken seriously and acted upon appropriately.

The nature of that action can vary. The report of a minor offence may warrant only the intervention of the operator themselves or escalation of the incident to TfL via the regular (but slow) reporting channels. It is expected, however, that serious crimes will be dealt with promptly, and reported directly to the police as well.

On 12 April 2017, the Metropolitan Police wrote to TfL expressing a major concern. In the letter, Inspector Neil Bellany claimed that ULL were not reporting serious crimes to the police. They cited three specific incidents by way of example.

«

This is very long, and very detailed, and explains very well that this is not about “disliking Uber” and wasn’t “decided by Sadiq Khan”. It was a decision by TfL, prompted by the police, and it’s about regulation.

But it’s notable how right-wing reflexive reaction has been that it’s about “stifling innovation” and that it’s a “political decision”. It’s dangerous when companies which are breaking regulations try to get the public to back them in doing so. (Via Alex Hern.)
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Your tweets may not have to be that short anymore • WSJ

Georgia Wells:

»

Twitter Inc. on Tuesday said it would begin testing a new limit of 280 characters, double its current limit, as a concession to users who have been clamoring for changes to the short-messaging service.

The new longer limit will be tested on a small portion of users–a percentage in the single digits, according to a Twitter spokeswoman–and Twitter will be monitoring the experiment for several weeks before making a decision. A random sample of Twitter users would be included in the experiment, the spokeswoman said, and declined to comment on whether President Donald Trump would be part of the test group.

“We want every person around the world to easily express themselves on Twitter, so we’re doing something new,” Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen and senior software engineer Ikuhiro Ihara wrote in a statement.

The 140-character limit was a barrier to some people using Twitter, Ms. Rosen and Mr. Ihara realized, particularly users tweeting in languages like English that use more words to express meaning. Users sometimes abandoned their tweets when they bumped up against the 140-character limit, they said.

«

Yeah, sure, people abandoned Twitter because they couldn’t say it in the typical length of a sentence. And isn’t it great to know that the problems of bots and sexist dogpiling has been solved?
link to this extract


Showtime’s websites may have used your CPU to mine cryptocoin while you binged on Twin Peaks • Gizmodo

Rhett Jones:

»

Over the weekend, a user on Twitter pointed out that two of Showtime’s websites had a script running in the background that’s used to hijack visitors’ CPUs to mine cryptocurrency. Other users and outlets later confirmed that the code was present. Now it’s gone, and Showtime refuses to answer questions.

Cryptocurrency miners have been in the news recently because The Pirate Bay caught some flak about a week ago for testing out a new service called Coinhive without informing users. The Coinhive miner uses the website visitors’ extra CPU power to generate a cryptocurrency called Monero (it’s like bitcoin but more private). This isn’t necessarily a nefarious thing to do. Coinhive is trying to present itself as a novel and legitimate way for websites to make some money from visitors. The company takes 30% of the Monero that’s mined by users’ CPUs and the website keeps the rest. It could be a nice way to avoid advertising—but it’s not cool to do this without getting users’ permission.

«

“Not cool” is one way of putting it. “Skeevy” is another.
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Do tech companies really need all that user data? • Harvard Business Review

Walter Frick:

»

To determine whether storage of users’ personal data improves search results, [researchers] Chiou and Tucker looked at how search results from Bing and Yahoo differed before and after changes in the European Commission’s rules on data retention. In 2008 the Commission recommended that search engines reduce the period over which search engines kept user records. In response, Yahoo decided to strengthen its privacy policy by anonymizing user data after 90 days. In 2010 Microsoft changed its policy, and began deleting IP addresses associated with searches on Bing after six months and all data points intended to identify a user across visits after 18 months. In 2011 Yahoo changed its policy again, this time deciding to store personal data longer — for 18 months rather than 90 days — allowing the researchers yet another chance to measure how changes in data storage affected search results. (Google did not change its policies during this period, and so is not included in the study. Some of Tucker’s past research has been funded by Google.)

The researchers then looked at data from UK residents’ web history before and after the changes. To measure search quality, they looked at the number of repeated searches, a signal of dissatisfaction with search results. In all three cases, they found no statistically significant effect on search result quality following changes in data retention policy. In other words, the decision to anonymize or de-identify the data didn’t appear to impair the search experience. “Our results suggest that the costs of privacy may be lower than currently perceived,” the authors write, though they note that previous studies have come to different conclusions.

«

By using clickstream data, they should be getting enough to be relevant – but the problem is that the size of use is small compared to Google’s. A “private” Google v logged-in Google comparison would really tell us more.
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Is beaming down in Star Trek a death sentence? • Ars Technica UK

Xaq Rzetelny looks at the fine detail of “first you’re here and then you’re there” in the iconic series:

»

“The way that the description of beaming is written, I would go for ‘you die and you’re reconstructed,'” said Michael Okuda, technical consultant for the various Trek shows and movies beginning with The Next Generation, on the Engage podcast. “I wish we had done some kind of dimensional transfer thing to be less ambiguous.”

Speaking to Ars, Okuda elaborated:

»

“Star Trek’s transporter has generally been thought of as a 3D version of a television. It is said to scan a person atom-by-atom, convert the atoms to energy, beam the energy to another location, then to convert the energy back to matter in the original pattern.
Some have suggested that this is the equivalent of destroying the person at the atomic level, then creating an identical duplicate at a different location. If this is true, then it seems possible that you have killed the original person and created a duplicate (who probably doesn’t remember dying).

“By the time Rick [Sternbach] and I wrote the TNG Tech Manual, the matter-energy conversion process had already been well-established in Trek lore, so I felt we needed to respect this notion. If we had written the book much earlier in Trek’s history, I think I would have pushed an alternate concept in which the continuity of a person’s existence is unambiguous.”

«

There it is, right from the horse’s mouth. The way it has been written, the transporter is a suicide box. Case closed.

A video on the subject by YouTuber CGP Grey presents a thought experiment to show viscerally why this is the case. Imagine that you step onto the transporter, only the part of the device that de-materializes you is broken. The transporter scans you and reconstructs you at the target location, only you haven’t been taken apart in the first place. Remember, there’s no need for it to take you apart; it can simply scan and reconstruct like a copying machine, leaving the original intact.

So the pre-transport “you” still exists at the same time as post-transport “you.” Would you then willingly step onto the de-materializer—and be destroyed to make room for your replacement—once Scotty’s fixed it? Probably not.

«

There’s a film in which David Bowie plays Nikola Tesla which plays with this idea. I won’t spoil it for you by naming it if you haven’t seen it. But if you have, you know what I mean.
link to this extract


China blocks WhatsApp, broadening online censorship • The New York Times

Keith Bradsher:

»

WhatsApp now appears to have been broadly disrupted in China, even for text messages, Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, a Paris-based research start-up, said on Monday. The blocking of WhatsApp text messages suggests that China’s censors may have developed specialized software to interfere with such messages, which rely on an encryption technology that is used by few services other than WhatsApp, he said.

“This is not the typical technical method in which the Chinese government censors something,” Mr. Kobeissi said. He added that his company’s automated monitors had begun detecting disruptions of WhatsApp in China on Wednesday, and that by Monday the blocking efforts were comprehensive.

Facebook declined to comment, following past practice when asked about WhatsApp’s difficulties in China.

Lokman Tsui, an internet communications specialist at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said that WhatsApp seemed to have been severely disrupted starting on Sunday. But he said that some WhatsApp users might still be able to use the service.

«

For China’s government (which is trying to tamp down dissent and discussion ahead of a big Communist party rally) it’s enough to make it difficult to use WhatsApp so that people use other services – which let the government see everything. Dictators hate encryption.
link to this extract


Verizon discontinues the Wear24 smartwatch after just four months • Android Police

Ryan Whitwam:

»

Verizon announced its very own Android Wear smartwatch earlier this year, powered by its LTE network. It started selling the Wear24 in May for $300 on contract and $350 without one. That seemed like an interesting proposition when consumers have shown little interest even in cheap smartwatches. Verizon didn’t let this product languish too long, though. We’ve confirmed with the carrier that Wear24 is dead.

Verizon didn’t actually announce the smartwatch was going away. If you try to visit the former product page, you are redirected to the support page for Wear24. We reached out to Verizon to see if the watch was indeed gone, and here’s the succinct reply we got.

»

Yes wear24 has been discontinued.

«

Okay, so that happened. The device was on sale for a little over four months before Verizon killed it.

«

What’s the betting that in four months from now Verizon will have sold more LTE-connected Apple Watches than it did of this device?
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

Start Up: Facebook’s growing hassles, Siri dumps Bing, the three-way Watch, and more


Look who’s come to save Telstra! Photo by Wired Photostream on Flickr.

A selection of 11 links for you. Really, they are. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Obama tried to give Zuckerberg a wake-up call over fake news on Facebook • The Washington Post

Adam Entous, Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg:

»

For months leading up to the [November 2016 presidential] vote, Obama and his top aides quietly agonized over how to respond to Russia’s brazen intervention on behalf of the Donald Trump campaign without making matters worse. Weeks after Trump’s surprise victory, some of Obama’s aides looked back with regret and wished they had done more.

Now huddled in a private room on the sidelines of a meeting of world leaders in Lima, Peru, two months before Trump’s inauguration, Obama made a personal appeal to Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously, though the president did not single out Russia specifically. Unless Facebook and the government did more to address the threat, Obama warned, it would only get worse in the next presidential race…

…This account — based on interviews with more than a dozen people involved in the government’s investigation and Facebook’s response — provides the first detailed backstory of a 16-month journey in which the company came to terms with an unanticipated foreign attack on the U.S. political system and its search for tools to limit the damage.

Among the revelations is how Facebook detected elements of the Russian information operation in June 2016 and then notified the FBI. Yet in the months that followed, the government and the private sector struggled to work together to diagnose and fix the problem.

The growing political drama over these issues has come at a time of broader reckoning for Facebook, as Zuckerberg has wrestled with whether to take a more active role in combatting an emerging dark side on the social network — including fake news and suicides on live video, and allegations that the company was censoring political speech.

«

link to this extract


Steve Bannon sought to infiltrate Facebook hiring • Buzzfeed

Joseph Bernstein:

»

Steve Bannon plotted to plant a mole inside Facebook, according to emails sent days before the Breitbart boss took over Donald Trump’s campaign and obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The email exchange with a conservative Washington operative reveals the importance that the giant tech platform — now reeling from its role in the 2016 election — held for one of the campaign’s central figures. And it also shows the lengths to which the brawling new American right is willing to go to keep tabs on and gain leverage over the Silicon Valley giants it used to help elect Trump — but whose executives it also sees as part of the globalist enemy.

The idea to infiltrate Facebook came to Bannon from Chris Gacek, a former congressional staffer who is now an official at the Family Research Council, which lobbies against abortion and many LGBT rights.

“There is one for a DC-based ‘Public Policy Manager’ at Facebook’s What’s APP [sic] division,” Gacek, the senior fellow for regulatory affairs at the group, wrote on Aug. 1, 2016. “LinkedIn sent me a notice about some job openings.”

“This seems perfect for Breitbart to flood the zone with candidates of all stripe who will report back to you / Milo with INTEL about the job application process over at FB,” he continued.

“Milo” is former Breitbart News Tech Editor Milo Yiannopoulos, to whom Bannon forwarded Gacek’s email the same day.

“Can u get on this,” Bannon instructed his staffer.

«

Seems to have come to naught. But shows that the culture wars in the US are deeply e,bedded.
link to this extract


Apple switches from Bing to Google for Siri web search results on iOS and Spotlight on Mac • TechCrunch

Matthew Panzarino:

»

Apple is switching the default provider of its web searches from Siri, Search inside iOS (formerly called Spotlight) and Spotlight on the Mac. So, for instance, if Siri falls back to a web search on iOS when you ask it a question, you’re now going to get Google results instead of Bing. Updated below with a statement from Microsoft.

Consistency is Apple’s main motivation given for switching the results from Microsoft’s Bing to Google in these cases. Safari on Mac and iOS already currently use Google search as the default provider, thanks to a deal worth billions to Apple (and Google) over the last decade. This change will now mirror those results when Siri, the iOS Search bar or Spotlight is used.

“Switching to Google as the web search provider for Siri, Search within iOS and Spotlight on Mac will allow these services to have a consistent web search experience with the default in Safari,” reads an Apple statement sent this morning. “We have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible.”

…All of the search results that you see in these different cases will come directly from the search API, which means you’ll be getting the raw, ranked search results that start below all of the ads and Knowledge Graph stuff that appears on a regular Google home page. Worth noting, of course, that once you’ve clicked on a YouTube video, you’re still going to get served ads, so there is a revenue driver here for Google, even if it’s not direct.

«

Will Google ever push ads into those results? But it makes sense, as Panzarino notes, for the new version of Apple’s MacOS that’s just released. Microsoft is left with image search in Siri – not really a big source of demand. Sayonara, Bing. Hello, bigger TAC (traffic acquisition costs) for Google.

link to this extract


macOS High Sierra vulnerability allegedly allows malicious third-party apps to access plaintext keychain data • Mac Rumors

Juli Clover:

»

macOS High Sierra, released to the public today, could be impacted by a major security flaw that could allow a hacker to steal the usernames and passwords of accounts stored in Keychain.

As it turns out, unsigned apps on macOS High Sierra (and potentially earlier versions of macOS) can allegedly access the Keychain info and display plaintext usernames and passwords without a user’s master password.

Security researcher and ex-NSA analyst Patrick Wardle tweeted about the vulnerability early this morning and shared a video of the exploit in action.

«

But if it applies “potentially” on earlier versions.. what is the choice? Not much, apart from not running unsigned apps.
link to this extract


More Windows 10 S PCs, starting at $275, are on the way • ZDNet

Mary Jo Foley:

»

Microsoft’s PC maker partners are readying some new low-end devices running Windows 10 S, which they may be marketing as suited for “frontline” service workers.

New Windows 10 S devices are coming from Acer, HP, Lenovo and Fujitsu, starting at $275, and will be available later this year, Microsoft execs said today at the company’s Ignite IT Pro conference in Orlando.

Microsoft and partners will be hawking these devices as “Microsoft 365-powered.” Microsoft 365 is a bundle of Windows 10, Office 365 and Microsoft’s enterprise mobility and security services.

«

The plan is that these will be deployed in enterprises. Essentially, taking on Chromebooks.
link to this extract


$12b down and counting, Telstra’s Andy Penn hires Nokia’s burning man Stephen Elop • Sydney Morning Herald

Colin Kruger:

»

Telstra has lost about $12 billion in market value since Andy Penn stepped up as chief executive in May last year. 

So you can understand he’s looking to pull every lever he can to reverse the slide. 

A billion dollar bet on the Philippines? Sure, if there’s a taker. 

How about a flutter on whatever telco talent is currently floating about on the market? Other than Sol Trujillo, of course. 

So the telco giant announced on Wednesday that it has secured the services of former Nokia boss, Stephen Elop. And the telco industry’s man for all seasons, Kevin Russell, who has stints as Optus CEO, and Hutchison 3’s CEO, on his resume.

«

🤔
link to this extract


Fossil Group doubles number of doors for its smartwatches and connected hybrids • WatchPro

Rob Corder:

»

By the end of 2017, Fossil Group will have launched more than 300 connected watch styles across 14 brands. The devices are now also active in 50 countries and 21 languages.

“Today our wearables segment is the fastest-growing part of our business,” says Greg McKelvey, chief strategy and digital officer at Fossil Group.

“Customer demand is strong and getting stronger, and we’re just on the front end of this business evolution. Clearly, this distinct combination of the best design and the best tech is winning with fashion-conscious consumers, especially our female customers who were long neglected by other wearables brands,” he adds.

In the last 12 months, Fossil Group says it has doubled its points of distribution for its connected devices and more than doubled its sales of wearables.

Instead of battling with technology giants that want a chunk of the wearables market, Fossil Group is working with them. Google continues to be a key strategic partner for the company, supporting the expansion of products powered by Android Wear 2.0.

«

The key point here (as Benjamin Clymer pointed out) that whereas the watch companies have always been proud in the past of making their own internals, now they’re farming it out in this new segment – while Apple goes the opposite way. How’s that going to work out, long-term?
link to this extract


German election predictions • Dataswarm

»

We have been tracking the German election using social media since February, and 6.8 million tweets later we have some predictions. Our Data Analytics Engine (which had correctly predicted Brexit, the US Election and the latest British one against the polls’ opinions) is now predicting for Germany….well, pretty much what the German polls are saying – except for the AfD.

«

Dataswarm’s prediction: CDU+CSU 34%; SPD 27%; AFD 16% (but variable from 12%-20%); FDP 7%; Linke 9%; Greens 7%. All +/-2% apart from AFD.

Actual: CDU+CSU 33%; SPD 20.5%; AFD 12.6%; FDP 10.7%; Linke 9.2%; Greens 8.9%.

Low bot activity (languages defeat English speakers, it seems). Will be interested to see what they think of this; the miss was pretty much all about the SPD.
link to this extract


New theory cracks open the black box of deep learning • Quanta Magazine

Natalie Wolchover:

»

Last month, a YouTube video of a conference talk in Berlin, shared widely among artificial-intelligence researchers, offered a possible answer. In the talk, Naftali Tishby, a computer scientist and neuroscientist from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, presented evidence in support of a new theory explaining how deep learning works. Tishby argues that deep neural networks learn according to a procedure called the “information bottleneck,” which he and two collaborators first described in purely theoretical terms in 1999…

…One immediate insight that can be gleaned from the theory is a better understanding of which kinds of problems can be solved by real and artificial neural networks. “It gives a complete characterization of the problems that can be learned,” Tishby said. These are “problems where I can wipe out noise in the input without hurting my ability to classify. This is natural vision problems, speech recognition. These are also precisely the problems our brain can cope with.”

Meanwhile, both real and artificial neural networks stumble on problems in which every detail matters and minute differences can throw off the whole result. Most people can’t quickly multiply two large numbers in their heads, for instance. “We have a long class of problems like this, logical problems that are very sensitive to changes in one variable,” Tishby said. “Classifiability, discrete problems, cryptographic problems. I don’t think deep learning will ever help me break cryptographic codes.”

«

This isn’t a trivial read; but the conclusion is useful in thinking about what deep learning will and won’t do.
link to this extract


A small-screen iPod, an internet communicator and a phone • Asymco

Horace Dediu:

»

the Watch is effectively stealing usage from the iPhone. At first it took alerts, timekeeping, and basic messaging away. Now it’s taking basic phone calls and music and maybe maps.

It’s fitting therefore to remember how the iPhone was launched; as a tentpole troika: a wide-screen iPod, an Internet Communicator and a Phone. Today the new Watch is a small-screen iPod, an Internet Communicator and a Phone.

So not only is the Series 3 Watch more powerful than the original iPhone but it is also poetically capable of the same tentpole jobs. But it’s not just a miniature iPhone. It has a new, completely orthogonal attack on non-consumption and market creation: fitness and health. This is a key point. The iPhone was born a phone but grew up to be something completely unprecedented, unforeseen by its creators and, frankly, undescribable in the language of 2007.

The Watch was born a timepiece but it is traversing through the early iPhone and pulling in a new direction all of its own. The fact that we are talking about “Resting Rate”, “Arrhythmia” and “Atrial fibrillation” at a timekeeping launch event indicates that new behaviors will follow and so will the language we’ll use to describe this child-like product once it grows up.

«

Notable how the link in “tentpole troika” goes back to a piece he wrote in 2014, with the introduction of the Watch, and its symmetry to how the iPhone has changed. I think there will be plenty of people who will miss the point of the Watch (and smartwatches) on the basis that “the screen’s really small – how can you work on that?” Remember, much the same used to be said of the iPhone.
link to this extract


Fujitsu to sell its handset business – will there be more to follow? • Counterpoint Research

Jene Park:

»

Rumors are spreading that Japan’s Fujitsu has decided to sell its subsidiary operating the mobile phone business. The bidding process may start next month. Fujitsu already categorized its mobile phone business as non-core and spun-off the division into a subsidiary in February 2016. Fujitsu has now decided to sell-off the entire handset business.

In early 2000, there were about 11 Japanese companies involved in the handset sector, including Fujitsu. Japanese handset makers grew to almost 20% of the global handset market at its peak. The domestic market was dominated by these local brands. Japanese brands ruled the local market with more than 80% for a long time. Since 2009, however, Japanese makers began to struggle due to the rapid growth of Apple. Japanese makers slowly exited the global market and their share declined. This happened even in the Japanese market to around 30%.


Japan handset market share by OEM origin
 
Macroeconomic factors of the Japanese economy seem to have influenced the Japanese mobile phone companies to some extent. The aging of the Japanese society progressed rapidly and Japanese companies showed a tendency to avoid big changes. Japanese makers focused more on feature phones, despite the fact that smart phones were already attracting attention. And this tendency of Japanese companies continued until 2016…

…Analysis of the handset market share in the Japanese market [now] clearly shows that the market is changing. In 2016, Fujitsu’s market share in Japan was about 7%, ranking fourth, and Fujitsu’s main products were targeting the >$400 price band. Customers belonging to the >$400 price band will likely be absorbed by Apple, Sony and Samsung.

«

I suspect the struggle since 2009 has been more to do with the rapid rise of Android than Apple. Though who can forget Wired’s fabulously wrong insight from February 2009 about “Why the Japanese hate the iPhone“? (Since updated with a note about, well, OK, some Japanese might like it, but not many. OK, quite a few. Oh, really, nearly half of all buyers?
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified

Web readers! You can sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

Start Up: fixing Facebook’s ad machine, the gender idiots, Apple Watch v Fitbit Ionic, and more


Is Amazon really helping people build bombs – or something less dangerous? Photo by ollyj on Flickr

You can now sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. You’ll need to click a confirmation link, so no spam.

A selection of 13 links for you. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I’m @charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Anatomy of a moral panic • Idle Words

Maciej Cieglowski on the “Amazon helps you build bombs story”:

»

just how many people does Channel 4 imagine are buying bombs online? For a recommendations algorithm to be suggesting shrapnel to sulfur shoppers implies that thousands or tens of thousands of people are putting these items together in their shopping cart. So where are all these black powder bombers? And why on earth would an aspiring bomber use an online shopping cart tied to their real identity?

A more responsible report would have clarified that black powder, a low-velocity explosive, is not a favored material for bomb making. Other combinations are just as easy to make, and pack a bigger punch.

The bomb that blew up the Federal building in Oklahoma City, for example, was a mixture of agricultural fertilizer and racing fuel. Terrorists behind the recent London bombings have favored a homemade explosive called TATP that can be easily synthesized from acetone, a ubiquitous industrial solvent.

Those bombers who do use black powder find it easier to just scrape it out of commercially available fireworks, which is how the Boston Marathon bomber obtained the explosives for his device. The only people carefully milling the stuff from scratch, after buying it online in an easily traceable way, are harmless musket owners and rocket nerds who will now face an additional level of hassle.

The shoddiness of this story has not prevented it from spreading like a weed to other media outlets, accumulating errors as it goes.

The New York Times omits the bogus shrapnel claim, but falsely describes thermite as “two powders that explode when mixed together in the right proportions and then ignited.” (Thermite does not detonate.)

«

And more where those came from. I have one issue: he thinks bad reporting comes from the desire to get clicks. It’s been around a lot, lot longer than the internet. But like all of his articles, this one has killer blows. (Thanks John Naughton for the link.)
link to this extract


Diversification (aka how to survive a crash) • AVC

Fred Wilson is pretty sure a crash in cryptocoin is inevitable:

»

I have advocated many times on this blog that people should have some percentage of their net worth in crypto. I have suggested as much as 10% or even 20% for people who are young or who are true believers. I continue to believe that and advocate for that.

But we don’t have that much of our net worth in crypto. We probably have around 5% between direct holdings and indirect holdings through USV and other crypto funds. I think that’s a prudent number for a portfolio like ours.

I know a lot of people who are true believers in crypto and have made fortunes in it. They are “all in” on crypto and have much of their net worth (all in some cases) invested in this sector. I worry about them and this post is aimed at them and others like them. It is fine to be a true believer and being all in on crypto has made them a lot of money. But preservation of capital is about diversification and I think and hope that they will take some money off the table, pay the taxes, and invest it elsewhere.

«

Bet you didn’t know how little of his holdings are in cryptocoin.
link to this extract


CCleaner malware outbreak is much worse than it first appeared • Ars Technica

Dan Goodin:

»

Because the CCleaner backdoor was active for 31 days, the total number of infected computers is “likely at least in the order of hundreds,” researchers from Avast, the antivirus company that acquired CCleaner in July, said in their own analysis published Thursday.

From September 12 to September 16, the highly advanced second stage was reserved for computers inside 20 companies or Web properties, including Cisco, Microsoft, Gmail, VMware, Akamai, Sony, and Samsung. The 20 computers that installed the payload were from eight of those targeted organizations, Avast said, without identifying which ones. Again, because the data covers only a small fraction of the time the backdoor was active, both Avast and Talos believe the true number of targets and victims was much bigger.

The second stage appears to use a completely different control network. The complex code is heavily obfuscated and uses anti-debugging and anti-emulation tricks to conceal its inner workings. Craig Williams, a senior technology leader and global outreach manager at Talos, said the code contains a “fileless” third stage that’s injected into computer memory without ever being written to disk, a feature that further makes analysis difficult. Researchers are in the process of reverse engineering the payload to understand precisely what it does on infected networks…

…The group behind the attack remains unknown. Talos was able to confirm an observation, first made by AV provider Kaspersky Lab, that some of the code in the CCleaner backdoor overlaps with a backdoor used by a hacking group known both as APT 17 and Group 72. Researchers have tied this group to people in China.

«

This is a hell of a thing.
link to this extract


EU buried its own $400,000 study showing unauthorized downloads have almost no effect on sales • Techdirt

Glyn Moody:

»

The 304-page document (pdf), made available on the netzpolitik.org site, contains all the details of the questions that were put to a total of 30,000 people from Germany, France, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the UK, their answers, and exhaustive analysis. The summary reveals the key results:

»

In 2014, on average 51% of the adults and 72% of the minors in the EU have illegally downloaded or streamed any form of creative content, with higher piracy rates in Poland and Spain than in the other four countries of this study. In general, the results do not show robust statistical evidence of displacement of sales by online copyright infringements. That does not necessarily mean that piracy has no effect but only that the statistical analysis does not prove with sufficient reliability that there is an effect. An exception is the displacement of recent top films. The results show a displacement rate of 40% which means that for every ten recent top films watched illegally, four fewer films are consumed legally.

«

That is, there is zero evidence that unauthorized downloads harmed sales of music, books and games. Indeed, for games, there was evidence that such downloads boosted sales…

«

So it clearly shows that there is an effect on films, and there might be one for all the others (though not games). High prices were essentially to blame: where prices aren’t high, piracy recedes.
link to this extract


App that paid users to exercise owes nearly $1m for not paying users to exercise • Gizmodo

Rhett Jones:

»

In the capitalistic nightmare we live in, everything has to be a transaction. So, when Pact launched its fitness app that let you make money for working out—or else pay a fee for failing to do so—it seemed to be the perfect motivational tool. There was just one problem: The company apparently wasn’t that great at paying up, and was it too good at collecting fees.

On Thursday, the FTC announced that it has settled its complaint against the makers of Pact for failing to live up to their agreement with users. A $1.5m judgment will be partially suspended based on Pact’s apparent lack of funds, the FTC writes, but Pact will be required to pay out $948,788 to customers who were wronged by the company.

«

link to this extract


Google experiment tests top 5 browsers, finds Safari riddled with security bugs • BleepingComputer

Catalin Cimpanu:

»

The Project Zero team at Google has created a new tool for testing browser DOM engines and has unleashed it on today’s top five browsers, finding most bugs in Apple’s Safari.

The tool — named Domato — is a fuzzer, a security testing toolkit that feeds a software application with random data and analyzes the output for abnormalities.

Google engineer Ivan Fratric created Domato with the goal of fuzzing DOM engines, the browser components that read HTML code and organize it into the DOM (Document Object Model), which is then “painted” and displayed inside the browser window that human users view on their screens.

Google: DOM engine bugs should be a priority
Fratric says he focused on DOM engines because it’s “a rare case that a vendor will publish a security update that doesn’t contain fixes for at least several DOM engine bugs,” showing how prevalent they are today.

He also argues that while Flash bugs provide a cross-browser attack surface, once Flash reaches end-of-life (in 2020), attackers will focus their efforts on DOM engines, the browser’s biggest attack surface.

With Domato he wants to help browser vendors test and patch as many security bugs in their respective DOM engines before it is too late.

«

After 100m tests: 17 bugs in Safari. Edge found 6, IE and Firefox 4, Chrome has 2. “Riddled” might be overstating it. Google has given a copy of Domato to all the browser makers.

Ah, but has also open-sourced Domato. So every hacker can have a go and find the bugs. In the matter of security, Project Zero gives and it takes away.
link to this extract


Fitbit Ionic review: A great fitness tracker, a mediocre smartwatch • Macworld

Michael Simon:

»

Fitbit has leveraged its Pebble acquisition to create a brand new foundation for apps, and you’ll get a handful of them at launch: Weather from AccuWeather, Pandora, Starbucks, and Strava, along with a few stock Fitbit apps, including Exercise, Coach, Wallet, Timers, Alarms, Relax, Settings, and Today.

That’s a pretty weak selection to start with, but it might be easier to overlook if any of the non-fitness-related apps did something useful. Aside from Timers and Alarms, which do what you’d expect, Ionic’s apps are frustratingly limited, with most offering single-page and in some cases, single-use functionality. For example, the Starbucks app is nothing more than a place to store your card. And the Wallet app (the logical place for your Starbucks card) merely offers instructions for how to make payments (by holding the left button).

That’s right, Ionic includes an NFC chip for on-the-go payments. The means yet another payment service (Fitbit Pay, natch), and it works like any other: pull up a card and hold the screen up to a checkout reader. But you can’t add cards without the phone app and Ionic only stores one at a time. It’s clearly designed for athletes who want to leave their wallet behind when on a run rather than someone who wants to abandon cash and credit cards.

You might have noticed a few key smartwatch apps that are missing from Ionic: messages, phone, mail, and maps. As it stands, you can’t do any of those things on the watch. Notifications will alert you to incoming messages and calls, but you’ll need your phone handy if you want to interact with them. It’s a very hands-off affair that might have been novel with the first Pebble way back when, but today’s smartwatches are much more than mere conduits for our phones.

«

The Ionic seems to have lots to recommend it on the fitness front, and the music storage and NFC elements. It’s the compatibility with smartphones which creates the problem for Fitbit. That, and Apple selling products with better “smartwatch” functionality above and below its $300 price.
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2017 US music sales are up 17%; streaming is up 48% • Recode

Peter Kafka:

»

More than 30 million people are now paying for a subscription streaming service in the U.S., which pushed streaming revenue up 48%, to $2.5 billion, in the first half of the year. Streaming now accounts for 62% of the U.S. music business.

And that’s pushing the overall music business back up again, after a fall that started in 1999, with the ascent of Napster, and didn’t stop until a couple years ago. Retail sales were up 17%, to $4bn, and wholesale shipments were up 14.6%, to $2.7bn.

Meanwhile, iTunes-style digital download sales continue to fall. They’re down 24 percent. Because why buy songs for a dollar when you can legally stream (almost) anything you want for a price that ranges between zero and $10 a month?

One surprise: Physical sales — things you buy that you can hold in your hand, like in the olden days — are nearly flat, down just 1%. That’s partly because of you hipsters and your facial hair, who pushed vinyl sales up 3%. But it’s also because some of you still like CDs, and maybe you’re always going to like CDs. Those sales were only down 3%.

«

What I find puzzling is that anyone is paying for downloads, given that Spotify has a free tier. Except, I guess, the instances where albums are only released for download. But that can’t be a substantial number.
link to this extract


The LTE Apple Watch is a glimpse into the not-so-distant future • BirchTree

Matt Birchler got an Apple Watch Series 3, and has a mobile connection set up, and he’s really happy with making calls and sending messages while not having to carry a phone on his run:

»

AirPods also behaved swimmingly on this workout. I’d never paired them to this Apple Watch before, but since they’re both linked to my iCloud account, the watch was able to see the AirPods and connect to them without a fuss. Interacting with AirPods is nice and easy too. I have mine set up where tapping the left will play/pause and tapping the right will skip to the next track. watchOS 4 helpfully displays your media controls on screen and in the Workout app, but being able to just tap my ear to move onto the next song is a little easier to do mid-run.

And like I said, because my Apple Watch has an LTE connection, I was also able to place and receive messages during this workout, I could check when the Packers were playing the next day, and even place a call (just to see if I could). The only smartphone thing I really missed was the camera. It was a night run, so I would not have taken any pictures anyway, but I do sometimes shoot quick photos while out in the world on a workout, and I would hate too miss a cool moment because =I simply didn’t have a camera with me. God help me, I think I want a camera on the next Apple Watch!

As any Android fan will tell you, Apple is not the first to this game. There have been LTE Android Wear watches for a couple years now, so I’m just an Apple fanboy who has never left the Apple bubble and thinks Apple does everything first even though they’re years behind. So left me make it clear, I have a drawer full of Android phones that I use regularly, and I have had the uh, pleasure of using an LTE-equipped Android Wear watch and I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt the experience was far more clunky and less enjoyable than my experience last night. My short time doing similar things with all Android devices made me think “maybe we will always need smartphones for everything, because this sucks” while the watchOS experience left me literally giddy with excitement for the future.

«

(That point about being able to specify what taps on each AirPod will do might have passed you by, but it’s new in iOS 11.)

The integration of the Watch and AirPods is remarkable, and this is definitely what Apple sees as a tempting possibility – but is it limited only to those who want to exercise?
link to this extract


It’s official – B&N has thrown in the towel on the Nook • The Digital Reader

Nate Hoffelder:

»

People want to shop online, and they want to buy ebooks, and for a brief while it looked like B&N could give customers what they want. But that illusion was slowly stripped away as Nook entered its death spiral following the 2012 holiday season.

Nook revenues have since declined to the point that Kindle Unlimited is far larger (and the new version of B&N’s website is so painful to use that online sales are also declining). While one estimate said  Nook ebooks sales exceeded Kobo ebook sales in 2016, you shouldn’t bet money on things staying that way.

Instead, the more likely scenario is that B&N is going to strike a deal with Kobo to let the latter either run Nook or simply take over Nook customer accounts. In either case, B&N will got from being a potential player to being little more than one of Kobo’s retail partners – think Indigo, only in the US.

B&N probably winces every time they are compared to Indigo, but that Canadian bookseller is the perfect example of what Barnes & Noble could have done.

«

Yes, like you I thought “Nook is still going in any shape or form?”
link to this extract


Push for gender equality in tech? Some men say it’s gone too far • NYTimes.com

Nellie Bowles:

»

as the nation’s technology capital — long identified as one of the more hostile work environments for women — reels from a series of high-profile sexual harassment and discrimination scandals, these conversations are gaining broader traction.

One of those who said there had been a change is James Altizer, an engineer at the chip maker Nvidia. Mr. Altizer, 52, said he had realized a few years ago that feminists in Silicon Valley had formed a cabal whose goal was to subjugate men. At the time, he said, he was one of the few with that view.

Now Mr. Altizer said he was less alone. “There’s quite a few people going through that in Silicon Valley right now,” he said. “It’s exploding. It’s mostly young men, younger than me.”

Mr. Altizer said that a gathering he hosts in person and online to discuss men’s issues had grown by a few dozen members this year to more than 200, that the private Facebook pages he frequents on men’s rights were gaining new members and that a radical subculture calling for total male separatism was emerging.

“It’s a witch hunt,” he said in a phone interview, contending men are being fired by “dangerous” human resources departments. “I’m sitting in a soundproof booth right now because I’m afraid someone will hear me. When you’re discussing gender issues, it’s almost religious, the response. It’s almost zealotry.”

«

I for one totally support their right to colonise the moon or Mars. In future years, they’ll make a great case study in how cults emerge.
link to this extract


Zuckerberg nixes new Facebook share class after shareholder lawsuit

Tom Hals:

»

Facebook chairman Mark Zuckerberg abandoned plans on Friday to create a new class of company stock with no voting power, which was meant to be a way for Zuckerberg to retain control over the company he founded while fulfilling a pledge to give away his wealth.

Zuckerberg on Friday said that he could meet the charity pledge and maintain voting control of Facebook without the change. His decision followed a shareholder lawsuit opposed to the creation of a new class of stock.

Zuckerberg said in a post on Facebook that the company’s stock had performed well enough that he could fund his philanthropy by selling stock for at least 20 years and still retain voting control of the company. In December 2015 Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, a pediatrician, pledged to give away 99% of their Facebook shares to charity.

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Odd how it took him until the lawsuit to figure out that 20 years thing.
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I helped create Facebook’s ad machine. Here’s how I’d fix it • WIRED

Antonio García Martínez:

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modern digital advertisers constantly tweak and experiment with ads. When big brands requested the ability to post lots of different creative, it posed a real problem. Brands wanted to show a dozen different ad variations every day, but they didn’t want to pollute their page (where all posts necessarily appear). ‘Dark posts’ were a way to shoehorn that advertiser requirement into the Pages system, allowing brands to create as many special, unseen posts as they’d like, which would only be seen by targeted audiences in their Feeds, and not to random passers-by on their page. The unfortunate term ‘dark post’ assumed a sinister air this past election, as it was assumed that these shady foreign elements, or just certain presidential candidates, were showing very different messages to different people, engaging in a cynical and hypocritical politicking.

Zuckerberg’s proposes, shockingly, a solution that involves total transparency…

As big a step as the transparency feature sounds, I don’t see how Facebook can launch it until these Pages product concerns are worked out. The Facebook Pages team product managers must be sitting right now in a conference room frantically scrawling new design ideas on a whiteboard. I’d bet anything that the Ads Quality and Pages teams are prioritizing that as you read this. This is one scandal Facebook isn’t going to weasel its way out of with generic appeals to “openness” and “community”…

…If democracy is to survive Facebook, that company must realize the outsized role it now plays as both the public forum where our strident democratic drama unfolds, and as the vehicle for those who aspire to control that drama’s course. Facebook, welcome to the big leagues.

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