Start up: Twitter gets AI too, Apple’s photo AI, would Brexit raise roaming prices?, Spotify’s 100m, and more


Presenting! It can be so easy, but can be so bad. Photo by Alice Bartlett on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Now that the summer solstice has passed in the northern hemisphere. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Alicia Keys is done playing nice. Your phone is getting locked up at her shows now. • The Washington Post

Geoff Edgers:

»On a cool Manhattan night, DJ Walton, who helps manage Alicia Keys, steps outside the Highline Ballroom to tell the guy at the door who, exactly, he may allow to bring a cellphone into the singer’s sold-out gig. The list is very short.

“Like, Queen Latifah,” says Walton.

Benji Spanier nods and spreads the news to everybody else. This is a “phone-free event,” he tells fans waiting in line. And that doesn’t mean airplane mode. Spanier holds a gray, rubbery pouch in his hand. Your phone goes in here, he says, and then we lock it.

“What?” one fan grumbles.

Quickly, Spanier adds an important addendum.

You keep that locked pouch with you. Spanier also explains that if you need to use your phone, you can just come outside and he can quickly unlock it by tapping it on a metal disk slightly larger than a bagel. The tension breaks.

“If you had told me you were going to put it in a locker, I’d have been pissed off,” Kevin Schmidt, 37, tells him. “This is okay.”

«

Special pouch, called Yondr. Good business for them.
link to this extract

 


Did Jeep’s recalled gear shifter contribute to the death of Star Trek Actor Anton Yelchin? (Updating) • Jalopnik

David Tracy:

»Earlier today, we learned about the tragic death of Anton Yelchin after the Star Trek actor was found pinned between his car and a mailbox. Now news from TMZ indicates that Yelchin’s car was a Jeep Grand Cherokee, leading us to wonder whether it was among the 1.1 million cars recalled in April due to a confusing shifter that owners often inadvertently left in neutral instead of park. [Update: it was.]

In mid April, Jeep recalled 1.1 million vehicles equipped with ZF’s eight-speed automatic transmission because, according to the automaker’s recall notice, “Some drivers… exited their vehicles without first selecting ‘PARK,’” ultimately causing the cars to roll away uncontrollably.

«

Lots of maybes, but this looks like a case where poor design led to death.
link to this extract

 


Twitter buys machine learning start-up Magic Pony • FT.com

Hannah Kuchler:

»Twitter has acquired Magic Pony, a London-based machine learning start-up, as the messaging platform tries to bolster its video and live streaming capabilities.

Magic Pony specialises in creating algorithms that can understand pictures, which could be helpful to Twitter as it pushes further into live streaming and moves away from a chronological timeline to a more curated Facebook-style news feed.

The startup was set up in 2014 and has 14 engineers, including 11 with PhDs and expertise across computer vision, the ability to understand pictures, machine learning and computational neurosciences…

Twitter acquired Magic Pony for an undisclosed sum. Its investors include Octopus Ventures, a UK-based venture capital firm that has invested in other artificial intelligence companies. These include Evi, which was acquired by Amazon, and SwiftKey, which was bought by Microsoft.

«

Airplanes to San Francisco await the chief executive Rob Bishop. Congratulations to that team.
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Speaker style bingo: 10 presentation anti-patterns • Troy Hunt

Hunt nails the ten awful habits of speakers you wish hadn’t got the slot you’re attending, and offers this advice:

»seriously, you’ve got to rehearse these things like crazy and also recognise that your pace changes between private rehearsals and public presentations. On that point, I always have a timing sheet in large letters next to my iPad with a timer in an easily glanceable location:

This is invaluable. I refine the timing on subsequent rehearsal and ensure it’s accurate to the minute with two or three minutes to spare at the end just in case I start late or have an issue. I glance at it very few minutes and either slow down the pace (usually by embellishing on a topic) or speed it up to get back on track. But here’s the key – this has to be something you can check with a glance.

«

Then again, I think all of us who have spoken in public could do a similar one about the audience – the ones checking their phones, checking their laptops, etc.
link to this extract

 


Behind Apple’s advanced computer vision for Photos app • Medium

Kay Yin:

»[iOS 10’s] Photos app recognises and distinguishes the following 7 facial expressions. Expressions are distinguished after forming a “faceprint”. These distinction are used for searching. They are also rated and indexed for generation Memories and montages.
•Greedy, Disgust, Neutral, Scream, Smiling, Surprise, Suspicious

Photos app will generate Moments that falls within the following 33 categories. Default name of the moment will be automatically generated using metadata from the photos and tags from analysis of photos.

• Memories from areas of interest, Best of past memories, Memories that break out of routine, Celebration in history, Contextual memories, Crowd, Day in history, Holiday in history, Location of interest, Nearby, New contextual memories, New memories, Person’s Birthdays, Person’s memories, Recent events (calendar, crowd, holiday, people, person, social, trip, weekend), Region of interest, Social group memories, Sometime memories, Special memories, Favourited, Trips, Week in history, Weekend, Year summary, Last week, Last Weekend

Photos app supports detecting 4,432 different scenes and objects. These scenes or objects can be searched for in all languages.

Additionally, you can search for various landmarks.

«

He doesn’t specify how he knows this – possibly from using the macOS beta and digging into the accompanying files. It seems like a limited number compared to what Google must have; Google’s scenes/objects list is probably growing by 4,432 every day.
link to this extract

 


Could Brexit result in higher roaming charges? • CCS Insigh

Kester Mann:

»Should the UK vote for Brexit, mobile operators would no longer be accountable to Brussels’ regulation on roaming. Under pressure from declining revenue in traditional areas such as voice and messaging, they would be foolish not to at least consider seizing an opportunity to reapply charges.

In reality however, this would be much easier said than done in a hugely competitive market that includes a number of strong virtual providers. Indeed, some operators have already gone a long way toward abolishing roaming ahead of the ruling next June. Backtracking would be extremely unpopular and probably only work if operators moved in unison. Even then, Ofcom may still be within its rights to clamp down if it deemed the move unnecessary.

Already more than 3 million customers of Three have taken advantage of inclusive roaming since the operator launched its Feel at Home offer in 2013. Significantly, it includes popular tourist and business destinations beyond Brussels’ jurisdiction, such as Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand and the US. In my view, this demonstrates a long-term strategy to offer low-cost roaming charges, whatever the outcome of the referendum.

Other UK providers have followed suit. Carphone Warehouse currently offers inclusive roaming in 29 countries, including Australia and the US, through its virtual service, iD. Meanwhile, Vodafone last month moved to largely abolish roaming across Europe. Tesco Mobile has a similar offer, although it is only available during the summer, a possible indication that it will review its options after the UK goes to the polls.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this debate is Swisscom’s recent decision to virtually abolish roaming within the EU for its Natel Infinity Plus subscribers. Given that Switzerland is not a member state and has a hugely dominant market position, this was a surprising move that suggests the value of roaming may be overestimated by some commentators.

«

(My family loves Three’s “Feel At Home” international roaming for no extra cost.)
link to this extract

 


One million machines, including routers, used to attack banks • Boing Boing

Cory Doctorow:

»Akamai’s Ryan Barnett reports on two attacks against the service’s financial customers last year: attackers used nearly 1m compromised systems to attempt to log in to users’ accounts using logins and passwords from earlier breaches.

Many of the attacks originated from proxies, but the response team found a high number of Xyxel and Arris home routers – provided by ISPs in an insecure state and not patched after deployment.

While distributed attacks are common, this story is a kind of trifecta of infosec badness: hacked, headless IoT devices rented to customers who aren’t allowed to reconfigure them; email/password breaches leaked from insecure services being leveraged on the assumption of password re-use; and attacks originating from a million IPs – all directed to financial accounts in a way that could clean out its victims of their life’s savings.

«

There must come a point where the sheer firepower is going to overwhelm any protection, surely? And what happens after that? Here’s the full Akamai report.
link to this extract

 


Get more out of your battery with Microsoft Edge • Windows Experience Blog

Jason Weber, director of Web platform team, Microsoft Edge:

»We connected a Surface Book to specialized power monitoring equipment and measured the actual power usage during typical browsing activities in Microsoft Edge, Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. We then automated each browser to perform the same series of activities: opening websites, scrolling through articles, and watching videos, opening new tabs for each task. We used the same websites you spend your time on – Facebook, Google, YouTube, Amazon, Wikipedia and more.

Average power consumption in milliwatts for identical workloads in Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Opera (with battery saver mode enabled). Unless specified, all browser settings were left at their defaults.

For these browsing activities, our tests show Microsoft Edge is a more energy efficient browser on Windows 10, with up to 36%-53% more battery life to get what you need done —whether you’re studying at the library, researching dream vacation destinations, or checking in with your friends on social networks.

«

Bet Apple would get the same for Safari on an Apple machine. Chrome is a battery hog – no two ways about it.
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Google vs. Apple: contrasting approaches to app store evolution • Tech-Thoughts

Sameer Singh:

»Instant Apps and Google Now On Tap are mildly interesting products when looked at individually. But when combined, they have the potential to reshape the app interaction model as we know it. That said, this is a risk because a change on this scale will take quite a bit of time to diffuse through to developers and consumers at scale. But if executed correctly, app downloads could be a thing of the past within five years.

Now let’s take a look at Apple’s approach to the app store. Apple appears to be doubling down on the existing app distribution / discovery paradigm. The only change on this front was the introduction of app store search ads (which have been available on Google Play for a year, with no major impact). Instead, Apple’s major announcements focused on subscription-based revenue models to help developers better monetize digital content. Of course, it also helps that app revenue is the lone bright spot for the company as iPhone sales continue to decline.

Apple’s moves will certainly improve monetization in certain app store categories, notably Productivity, but it could hardly be called a drastic change to the app store model. This serves some developer needs, but it does not solve the app discovery challenge faced by consumers and the conversion rate issue that plagues developers. Time will tell if this was the right approach.

«

Is app monetisation more important for developers, or being able to get their apps onto peoples’ devices? The latter is comparatively easy, though neither is a cakewalk. Apple seems to be focussing first on the former, and fixing that quickly. Though Google could follow it quickly too.
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Spotify monthly active user base reaches 100 million • Reuters

Mia Shanley:

»Swedish music streaming service Spotify said on Monday its user base had grown to 100 million, up from 75 million previously, as it pushed into new markets and despite competition from the likes of Apple Music.

Spotify has the music streaming industry’s biggest paid subscriber base, with 30 million users paying to listen, but the vast majority still tune in for free with commercial breaks.

Competition is fierce with Apple Music launched just last year and already claiming 13 million paid users while Alphabet’s Google competes with Google Music and Youtube.

«

Apple claimed last week to have 15 million subscribers – time to update the database, Reuters. Quite how it counts them (is each member of a family membership a “subscriber”, or only the main paying member?) isn’t yet clear.

What is clear is that Spotify can’t let a single Apple Music statistic go past without upping the ante. Notably, that 30m paid subscriber number hasn’t shifted since it released it in March. Possibly it is being conservative with its numbers, and only releasing bigger subscriber numbers when it needs to.

A related problem: those 70m non-paying listeners have to be monetised through advertising, and that growing inventory (= ad spots to fill) inevitably means falling ad prices, which means worse losses.
link to this extract

 


#THEDAO: Failing fast vs Failing unnecessarily • Preston J. Byrne

Byrne is extremely unimpressed with the setup which allowed millions of dollars worth of Ethereum cryptocurrency to be drained away, unlike some VCs who are saying “ooh, it’ll get fixed next release!”:

»Having lawyers – or legal-coders- involved in this is absolutely critical. The future doesn’t belong to the guy who just slings code or the guy who does the front-office function, but someone who can bridge the gap and do both – bringing the best of Silicon Valley’s approach to life to the professional services which run the rest of the world, and doing so in a way which gybes with local rule-frameworks. (Note, I run into this all the time when speaking with the banks – architects and front-office guys aren’t accustomed to talking to each other, or even considering themselves as part of the same team. I suspect this is a large contributor to most banks’ heaps of technical debt.)

Bridging the gap becomes especially important if you want to take your idea and turn it into an investable business, as many Solidity programmers do.

With respect to the DAO, there was a similar breakdown in communication – only this time between the wider community and the developers doing the codeslinging. Serious professional objections, from persons extremely well-versed on every layer of this conceptual stack, were made known very early. And not “this is a silly idea which will never work” kinds of objections, but “this is technically bankrupt and flies in the face of all best practice for what you are attempting to do” kinds of objections.

«

I still find the story around this impenetrable, but Byrne’s angry headshaking sounds like what ought to be the reaction.
link to this extract

 


Top ten reasons to doubt Trump is even a billionaire • Talking Points Memo

Josh Marshall, with the aforesaid ten, of which this is striking:

»During the research for his book Timothy o’Brien received estimates of Trump’s wealth ranging from $250m to $788m. Trump himself originally told O’Brien he was worth between $4b and $5b before dramatically revising down his estimate to $1.7 billion the same day. If we take $250m, $788m and $1.7b together and rough average them out we can get around $1 billion circa 2004/05. Today Trump claims he is worth $10 billion. This would require a tenfold run up in Trump’s wealth over roughly a decade. Even if we take Trump’s own estimate of $1.7 billion it would require a five fold run up over a decade. The problem is that Trump hasn’t done anything over that period that would account for that kind of wealth accumulation. Trump does very few major building projects these days and the few he does he does mainly with other people’s money. After the bankruptcy crises of 25 years ago, Trump shifted his business model from high profile real estate development to licensing and television. He licenses his name for hotels, buildings and golf courses on the high end and steaks, water, ties and more on the low end. This probably generates a massive amount of income for us mortals. But not many billions of dollars over a decade.

«

There must be a moment of truth, rather than truthiness, coming. Also: Trump fired his campaign manager on Monday. Things aren’t looking too clever.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Chromebooks: low-end disruption amid the PC collapse


Just a flesh wound? Scan by fae on Flickr.

Revenues are draining out of the PC business like blood from someone who has come off worse in a swordfight in Game Of Thrones. According to the data I’ve collected from the top four Windows PC OEMs which publish financial data – HP, Lenovo, Asus and Acer (but not Dell, because it has been a private company since September 2013) – there’s a steady drop in the total revenues in the Windows PC market.

Screenshot 2016 05 31 16 54 44

I calculate this from the recorded revenues from the companies, and then comparing that to the number of PCs they’ve shipped according to IDC, and the number of PCs shipped in the total market. Importantly, that number excludes Apple, where revenues show a less clear pattern:

Screenshot 2016 05 31 16 56 12

An update: I was asked to show the revenues for the companies. This comes from their company reports, and from IDC’s figures for PCs shipped. Note that IDC excludes Chromebooks and 2-in-1s; that would favour companies which sell either of those devices (as they get the revenue, but it doesn’t count against PCs shipped). Apple however doesn’t call its 2-in-1 a PC – it’s an iPad, and it puts it in that category (which isn’t measured here).

Average PC revenues by OEM, by quarter

Note how Acer’s figure is falling faster than the overall trend.

What’s noticeable there is how Acer’s revenue per PC keeps sliding. Asus, meanwhile, has staged a recovery, along with HP. And Apple sails above the lot.

If you look at operating profits for the Windows PC OEMs, the picture is again a little clouded, but there’s a clear general trend over the past couple of years: after heaving themselves out of a bad period in mid-2012 to the end of 2013, there was a sudden uptick in their fortunes in 2014 when the end of Windows XP heralded a burst of spending by corporations on new PCs. Since then, though, decline has set in again.

Screenshot 2016 05 31 16 55 59

Note this is a weighted average: Lenovo sells more machines, and is more profitable, so that pulls up the average.

(The past couple of years don’t include Dell, which went private in late 2013, and hasn’t published revenues or profits that can be precisely tied to PC shipments since. Some figures did surface earlier this month, but on putting them into my past data for Dell they suggested that PC revenues had soared beyond a level of any other company. I think that instead Dell has changed its reporting structure, and mixes services revenue with PC revenue.)

That might look healthy enough, but in fact the operating margins vary from around 5% (Lenovo) and 4% (HP Inc) to 1.3% (Acer). If you look further down the chain, to companies like Fujitsu and Toshiba, their PC businesses are shrinking in size and making operating losses. I’d be surprised if Samsung is doing better than breaking even on its much-reduced PC business, which has roughly halved in revenue since the end of 2014 to just under $600m per quarter; at the average price of PCs, that’s about 1.2m units per quarter.

We don’t know Apple’s operating profits on PCs, but historically the figure has been just under 19% of PC revenues – which means that it has an operating margin roughly four times higher than any rival, while its average selling price (ASP) of $1,265 is more than double the $490 of the big players. On those figures, Apple sweeps up roughly half of all the profits in the PC industry.

But now change – more precisely, disruption – is on the horizon with the advent of Chromebooks capable of running Android apps – which will, crucially, include Microsoft Office.

Thin end, big wedge?

Credit to Tom Warren for spotting the story: Chromebooks outsold Macs for the first time in the US in the first quarter of 2016, shifting an estimated 2m against 1.76m Macs. It’s an important story, and one which I’ve been expecting for a long time: Chromebooks are beginning their low-end disruption of the PC market. This can only grow. The important question now is, who loses and who gains?

Sure, you can argue with the numbers – Apple doesn’t break down shipments for the US, and IDC has in the past got its totals wonky for the worldwide and US figures. But what’s mostly put some peoples’ noses out of joint about this data point is that Chromebook sales have been compared to Apple’s. That’s Google and Apple. The big rivalry in tech.

That’s because the only other two candidates for the “sold more than” metric by IDC’s data were Acer (0.71m shipped in the US) and Lenovo (1.92m in the US). But the trouble with doing that – “Chromebooks outsold Acer” or “Chromebooks outsold Lenovo” – is that (a) nobody cares (b) both Acer and Lenovo sell Chromebooks, so they’d be the ones outselling themselves.

Use “Apple” in the headline, though, and everyone’s happy: Apple doesn’t sell Chromebooks, and it’s a savoury tale.

But this an important story of low-end disruption. Clayton Christensen, who first formulated the theory, should be happy. Low-end disruption is the idea that long-developed, complex, expensive products are replaced at the low end by cheaper good-enough products which, while they can’t do everything the complex expensive ones can, are still fine for a segment of the market. Then the low-end products improve, as technology tends to, until they serve more and more of the market, driving the complex products further upmarket (to retain revenue as unit sales shrink). Eventually, in the limit, the high-end makers give up.

When Google announced the Chromebook in June 2011, I was agog. The potential for disruption was obvious – though at the time I thought it would be more popular with enterprises than education or consumers. On that basis, I thought they could chew away billions of dollars of Microsoft revenues and profits.

That didn’t happen, and the reasons why eluded me for some time, but it boiled down to a few things: enterprises often needed specific Windows-based apps; consumers were pretty happy buying Windows machines (or tablets, as happened with greater eagerness for a few years); schools wanted to experiment with tablets. Also, Chromebooks didn’t have Microsoft Office – which many businesses, and consumers, still see as essential to getting stuff done. Furthermore, ChromeOS was essentially a browser, and people need more than just a browser to do everything; witness the popularity of apps on smartphones and tablets.

Early lessons

In schools, though, Chromebooks were just the job. They were cheap; they didn’t need expensive software licences; they were easy to set up; and you could create web- or intranet-based content that the students could learn with. They were essentially laptop-lite. And that was fine. (My youngest child uses a Chromebook at school; the other uses his own laptop; the eldest, at the equivalent of high school final year, uses a school-issue iPad. Clearly, mileage varies a lot between schools.)

But now, with the impending arrival of Chromebooks that can run Office, the stage is set for low-end disruption to tear through the PC market, which is already struggling with the effects of consumers turning to tablets and smartphones in preference to PC upgrades.

Just as important is that PC OEMs may actually have good reasons to make Chromebooks in preference to Windows PCs. The research company Gartner recently pointed out that there are only two properly profitable niches in Windows PCs: high-end ultramobiles, which is the only segment showing revenue growth, and gaming PCs, which are tricked out with high-spec components (especially GPUs). For the rest, it’s a depressing slide towards the bottom.

Among the fixed costs for those PC OEMs is the Windows licence. But what if you could remove the cost of Windows from your bill of materials? The machine at once becomes more profitable. Though there is a fly in the ointment: to work well with Android apps, it will need a touchscreen, which is an expensive item.

Even so, you can see how a PC OEM trying to shore up their revenues and profits – which are increasingly hard to come by – would look for any new space they can. Chromebooks definitely look like that space.

However, I don’t expect it to disrupt Apple yet. The company most at risk from this is still Microsoft, because if people choose to use Chromebooks, it’s usually going to be in preference to Windows PCs. Apple remains the choice of the high-paying buyer – the segment, as noted above, which stays resistant for the longest.

The other question is which PC OEMs will stand to benefit most, or lose most, from the growth in Chromebooks. I think those which have high cost efficiencies, or can price higher based on brand, will benefit. Samsung has good cost efficiencies (it makes a lot of the stuff) even though its brand is weak in PCs, so could do well. Acer and Asus? Hard to say. HP makes money selling cheap PCs with value-added Microsoft deals, but could switch to doing cloud deals around ChromeOS. Lenovo, though, might have the most to lose if it can’t keep squeezing extra margin from selling Windows.

The fly in the ointment: iTunes

Ironically, there’s one potential barrier. It’s the most widely used Windows desktop program that isn’t available for Chromebooks: Apple’s iTunes. Given that tens of millions of people, at a conservative estimate, and perhaps more than 100 million still rely on iTunes to organise their music, and to sync their iPhones and iPads, the absence of iTunes for ChromeOS or Android could turn out to be a stumbling block on the road to total Windows disruption. (Notice how the most eager adopters of Chromebooks so far have been those which don’t need to manage iTunes. And Apple Music on Android is an app for the paid streaming service, not the music-you-own organiser.) It certainly didn’t help WindowsRT that iTunes wasn’t available for it.

Sure, I know and you know that people can and have been managing their iPhones and iPads and music and app libraries since 2011 using iCloud, without resource to iTunes. Don’t discount it, though. The generation which might find it easiest to live without is the first-time PC buyer. But even more problematic for Microsoft is that they just don’t seem to be buying PCs at all. It’s hard to see this Game Of Thrones ending well for Windows.

Start up: the American iPhone?, China’s dying satellite, Snapchat’s filter fiddle, spammer jailed, and more

Sure, he’s good with a light sabre. But can Star Wars denizens read and write? Photo by Eva Rinaldi 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. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The all-American iPhone • MIT Tech Review

Konstantin Kakaes:

»imagine that Apple persuaded one of its Chinese manufacturers to open factories in the United States or did that itself. Could it work? Apple could profitably produce iPhones in America, as some high-end Mac computers are produced, without making them much more expensive. There’s a catch, though, that undermines Trump’s and Sanders’s arguments. This becomes clear if you carry our thought experiment to its most extreme conclusion.

«

It’s impossible because the US just doesn’t have the infrastructure or labour force to offer the factories and supply chain close enough to make this viable at the volumes in which Apple offers the iPhone. You can make some of them, but not all of them.
link to this extract

 


With watchOS 3, Apple Watch gets a do-over • Six Colors

Jason Snell:

»I wear an Apple Watch every day and I can’t tell you how excited I am at the prospect of using watchOS 3. It’s truly Apple’s second take on how the Apple Watch should work, based on a year of real-world use by millions of people.

It’s tough to admit that you were wrong. With watchOS 3, that’s what Apple is doing on numerous fronts. I get why someone might have thought that using the watch’s side button as a gateway to a miniature contacts list was a good idea, but in practice it was readily apparent to be a misguided use of one of the device’s only physical controls. watchOS 3 admits the mistake and re-tasks that button for something far better: a dock of important apps, already loaded and ready to run.

Sometimes you’re wrong because you have an idea that you think will work, but it just doesn’t come together or mesh with the way people want to use your product. I think that’s what happened with the Friends button. Reality collided with that vision, and reality has won. (Full credit to Apple here: I thought it was distinctly possible that they’d double down and try to tweak the Friends view rather than kill it.)

«

Definitely; I can count the number of times I’ve used the “contacts” side button during the past year on the hands of two hands.
link to this extract

 


How Yahoo derailed Tumblr • Mashable

Seth Fiegerman:

»Top Yahoo executives clashed with Tumblr, or just flat out confused employees. On one occasion, an executive overseeing Karp and his division perplexed employees by saying he thought Tumblr had the potential to “create the next generation PDF,” according to multiple sources. At other times, a top Yahoo sales exec spoke down to Tumblr’s advertising team and pushed aside a beloved leader, according to multiple employees. Tumblr staffers fled by the dozens, cutting into the company’s momentum and morale.

Yahoo tried to make things right a year later by separating the ad teams again, but the damage was done.

Tumblr has fallen out of the top 100 list of free iOS apps in the U.S. as of the beginning of June, according to data from AppAnnie, an app analytics service. Research firm eMarketer projects that “the gap [in users] between Tumblr and its competitors will widen through 2020.”

In short, Tumblr is no longer the hot new thing for consumers – or marketers.

«

It’s a familiar story, well-told by Fiegerman. Not even Mayer has been able to stop Yahoo’s careening ad culture, which drives all before it into the sea.
link to this extract

 


Is Snapchat stealing for its filters? • The Ringer

Molly McHugh:

»Since discovering the Snapchat filter that resembled her work, Mykie has become an advocate for other artists in a similar position. But she’s still attempting to work with Snapchat. “Most recently their support team has not responded to my tweets [as well as tweets from others] wanting answers on this recurring issue,” she told me via email. “I also filed a report through the app with my particular case when the filter first appeared and their response was that they ‘Don’t believe that the filter infringes any copyright.’ That would ultimately be up to a judge to decide if the work had been altered enough to count as a new work.” As in Pinal’s case, the filter disappeared soon after Mykie posted evidence of the app’s copycat work to her Instagram feed.

Graphic artists have long seen their work lifted and reused in various ways — a Target T-shirt here, an Urban Outfitters print there. Artist Lois van Baarle says that Snapchat repurposed her work as a sticker, which she noticed “purely by coincidence” while installing the app for the first time.

«

Snapchat subsequently responded, basically fessing up. It’s the usual Silicon Valley saying – better to ask forgiveness than permission.
link to this extract

 


Chinese borrowers told to post nude photos as collateral • FT.com

Lucy Hornby:

»Chinese loan sharks are demanding nude photos as collateral from female borrowers which can be used for blackmail if they fall behind on their repayments.

The aggressive tactics are an example of the drastic debt recovery measures that are being employed in the slowing Chinese economy.

The democratisation of finance in China via peer-to-peer lenders and the vast shadow banking system, with interest rates sometimes topping 30%, have proved an inflammatory mix and fuelled a surge in souring loans.

Female college students in the southern province of Guangdong were told to hand over naked photos of themselves holding their ID cards, with lenders threatening to make them public if they failed to repay their microloans, according to the Nandu Daily, the local newspaper.

While these loans were brokered on Jiedaibao, the P2P online lending platform denied direct involvement as the two parties subsequently agreed terms over another channel. “This is an illegal offline trade between victims and lenders who did it by making use of the platform,” a representative said when contacted by the Financial Times.

«

link to this extract

 


Verizon Moto Z Moto Mods pricing details leak: definitely not cheap • Tech Times

Alexandra Burlacu:

»The leak surfaced on Reddit, purportedly showing the Moto Mods’ prices as listed on the My Verizon app. According to the screenshots posted on image-hosting website Imgur, the alleged Moto Mods prices are as follows:

The Insta-Share Projector will apparently require a hefty investment of $299, the TUMI Wireless Charging Power Pack will cost $99, the TUMI Power Pack will be $89, the JBL SoundBoost will cost $79.99, while the Kate Spade shell will retail at $79.

In other words, it seems like none of the Moto Mods will be cheaper than $79, which basically shuts down any expectations of affordable modules for the Moto Z.

LG already received criticism over its pricing scheme for the LG Friends modules for the G5 flagship, but Motorola fans hoped the Moto Mods would be more decently priced.

The Insta-Share projector, for instance, sounds like a decent gadget for a smartphone although it only has a 50-lumen projection output and a 1,100 mAh battery, but at $300 it seems awfully overpriced.

«

This stuff always looks expensive compared to the phone; that’s how integration works out. (That’s also why Project Ara hasn’t got a hope of being affordable.)
link to this extract

 


Guccifer 2.0 DNC’s servers hacked by a lone hacker • GUCCIFER 2.0

»Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton’s and other Democrats’ mail servers. But he certainly wasn’t the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC’s servers.

Shame on CrowdStrike: Do you think I’ve been in the DNC’s networks for almost a year and saved only 2 documents? Do you really believe it?

Here are just a few docs from many thousands I extracted when hacking into DNC’s network.

They mentioned a leaked database on Donald Trump. Did they mean this one?

«

One always wonders about people who refer to themselves in the third person. But these look pretty legit. (I’d be wary of downloading them even so unless you’re certain of your antivirus.)
link to this extract

 


“Spam King,” who defied nearly $1B in default judgments, sentenced to 2.5 years • Ars Technica

Cyrus Farivar:

»A Las Vegas man known as the “Spam King” was sentenced Monday to 2.5 years in federal prison. He pleaded guilty last year to one count of fraud.

The federal judge in San Jose, California also ordered Sanford Wallace to pay over $310,000 in restitution.

Prosecutors wrote that by his own admission, Wallace executed “a scheme from approximately November 2008 through March 2009 to send spam messages to Facebook users that compromised approximately 500,000 legitimate Facebook accounts, and resulted in over 27 million spam messages being sent through Facebook’s servers.”

«

Wallace is spam-famous back to the 1990s; constantly annoying, not giving a damn about anyone. Even 36 months isn’t going to make much difference, I’d wager. There’s a book extract about him here.
link to this extract

 


Introducing the Internet Creators Guild • Medium

Hank Green, “internetainerpreneur”:

»I started paying my bills with YouTube money around the time I hit a million views a month. My content was admittedly low budget and “views” isn’t necessarily the best metric (what it means changes drastically based on platform), but I want you to take a guess at how many YouTube channels now get more than a million views a month? A couple hundred? A thousand?

How about 37,000.

For context, Facebook has 12,000 employees.

At 100,000 views a month, you’re still making a fairly significant bit of income from YouTube. If you can do it consistently, about $2,500 per year. How many people hit that barrier this month?
300,000.

Gone are the days when every successful creator got their own New York Times profile. Nowadays, professional internet creator is just another job…a job that thousands of new people have every month. If “internet creator” were a company, it would be hiring faster than any company in silicon valley…

…There is no system for protecting creators, many of whom have no experience in any industry, let alone the notoriously cut-throat entertainment industry. I’m ten years into this and I kinda can’t believe that there’s still no centralized organization representing creators.

«

link to this extract

 


Amazon’s high hopes for Echo sales • The Information

Amir Efrati:

»Amazon is hoping to sell as many as 10 million of its voice-activated Echo devices next year, which would make it a roughly $1 billion hardware business, according to a person with direct knowledge of the projections.

That would be an increase from the 3 million units Amazon hopes to sell this year—a number that was projected before the beginning of the year, said the person, who doesn’t have access to actual sales figures. That’s up from 1 million devices Amazon is thought to have sold in the latter half of 2015, after it became widely available in the US. Amazon hasn’t released sales figures for the device.

As a comparison, Apple’s video-streaming device Apple TV sold 25 million units between its 2007 launch and the end of 2014, Apple has said. Google’s cheaper video-streaming device, Chromecast, sold 10 million during its first year and a half on the market, starting in mid-2013.

The 10 million mark is one that Amazon believes will open the floodgates for the voice-controlled speaker category, this person said. That would help the broader “smart home” industry because such a speaker can act as a hub to control other web-connected devices in the home.

But Echo will soon face more competition.

«

To hit that 10m mark, Amazon would have to start selling outside the US, and until it starts working in languages other than English, that would mean its only real target market would be the UK. I’m not sure about the level of demand for this.
link to this extract

 


When will China’s ‘Heavenly Palace’ space lab fall back to earth? • Space.com

Leonard David:

»A Chinese space lab is bound to come back to Earth relatively soon, but when and where this happens is a matter of debate and speculation.

For example, some satellite trackers think China may have lost control of the uncrewed 8-ton (7.3 metric tons) vehicle, which is called Tiangong-1. That’s the view of Thomas Dorman, who has been documenting flyovers of the spacecraft using telescopes, binoculars, video and still cameras, a DVD recorder, a computer and other gear.

“If I am right, China will wait until the last minute to let the world know it has a problem with their space station,” Dorman told Space.com. [See photos of China’s Tiangong-1 space lab]

“It could be a real bad day if pieces of this came down in a populated area … but odds are, it will land in the ocean or in an unpopulated area,” added Dorman, an amateur satellite tracker who has been keeping tabs on Tiangong-1 from El Paso, Texas since the space lab’s September 2011 launch. “But remember — sometimes, the odds just do not work out, so this may bear watching.”

«

link to this extract

 


Most citizens of the Star Wars galaxy are probably totally illiterate • Tor.com

Ryan Britt:

»Attack of the Clones sees Obi-Wan Kenobi go to the Jedi Library, but again, this research facility seems less about books and more about pretty colors, interactive holographic maps, etc. The amount of actual reading even someone like Obi-Wan does is still limited. Now, I imagine Jedi can probably read and are taught to read, as are rich people like Princess Leia and Padme Amidala and Jimmy Smits. But everything in Star Wars is about video chat via holograms, or verbal communication through com-links. Nobody texts in Star Wars!

It seems like this society has slipped into a kind of highly functional illiteracy. Surely, for these cultures to progress and become spacefaring entities, they needed written language at some point. But now, the necessity to actually learn reading and writing is fading away. Those who know how to build and repair droids and computers probably have better jobs than those who can’t. This is why there seems to be so much poverty in Star Wars: widespread ignorance.

The idea of education becoming obsolete due to cultural changes isn’t without a science fiction precedent. In the Star Trek pilot “The Cage,” Vina speaks of a culture that “forgets how to repair the machines left behind by their ancestors.” I’m postulating that the same thing happened with literacy in the Star Wars galaxy. People stopped using the written word, because they didn’t need to, and it slipped away from being a commonly held skill.

«

If the Star Wars films were documentaries, this would make sense. But they’re films, and a scene showing someone texting is high up there with the most boring things to show. Film is all about “show, don’t tell”; reading is about tell.

It’s an interesting point though about what a functionally illiterate society *might* look like, though. (Via Charles Knight.)
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida:

Start up: Facebook’s video hope, Amy on Outlook, Apple’s neural nets, a Trump rally in Greensboro, and more

06

Deleting the default apps on iOS 10 will get rid of them, right? Wrong. Photo by tuaulamac 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. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Facebook is predicting the end of the written word • Quartz

Cassie Werber:

»Facebook has arguably made us all writers, since it has become the medium of choice for millions to share their views and life experiences. But in five years that creativity may look very different. Facebook is predicting the end of the written word on its platform.

In five years time Facebook “will be definitely mobile, it will be probably all video,” said Nicola Mendelsohn, who heads up Facebook’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, at a conference in London this morning. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO, has already noted that video will be more and more important for the platform. But Mendelsohn went further, suggesting that stats showed the written word becoming all but obsolete, replaced by moving images and speech.

“The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” Mendelsohn said. “It conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”

«

Not buying this.
link to this extract

 


How ‘deleting’ built-in Apple apps works in iOS 10 • iMore

Rene Ritchie:

»when you delete a built-in app, you don’t really delete it. You do remove the icon from the Home screen, the user data is flushed, and the hooks into the system for things like default links and Siri handling are removed. But, it doesn’t delete the actual app binary.

There are two reasons for this:

• Apple’s built-in apps are very, very small, taking up only 150 MB of storage. That’s because they wrap a lot of core functionality and so don’t introduce a lot of extraneous code or assets.

• When a version of iOS is released, Apple signs it so your iPhone or iPad can verify it’s legitimate and hasn’t been tampered with by a third party. That code signing covers the entirety of iOS, including built-in apps. If everyone had different apps, some present, some not, the current form of signing security wouldn’t work.

«

Deleting the user data might save a fair amount of storage, though.
link to this extract

 


X.ai works with Microsoft Outlook.com • Business Insider

Matt Weinberger:

»For the last two years, the popular x.ai virtual personal assistant has been helping Google Calendar users manage their meetings.

Today, x.ai is finally coming to Microsoft calendars, with support for Office 365 and Outlook.com, as the company moves closer to the release of its paid business edition later this year.

«

Amy is a really terrific system – I don’t know why Google or Microsoft hasn’t snapped up x.ai.
link to this extract

 


BNNS • Apple Developer Documentation

»Basic neural network subroutines (BNNS) is a collection of functions that you use to implement and run neural networks, using previously obtained training data.

«

Embedded in all four platforms (iOS, tvOS, watchOS, OSX/MacOS):

»BNNS supports implementation and operation of neural networks for inference, using input data previously derived from training. BNNS does not do training, however. Its purpose is to provide very high performance inference on already trained neural networks.

«

Does Android have anything comparable?
link to this extract

 


The perils and promises of gene-drive technology • The New Yorker

Michael Specter:

»Normally, the progeny of any sexually reproductive organism receives half its genome from each parent. For decades, however, biologists have been aware that some genetic elements are “selfish”: evolution has bestowed on them a better-than-fifty-per-cent chance of being inherited. But, until scientists began to work with Crispr, which permits DNA to be edited with uncanny ease and accuracy, they lacked the tools to make those changes.

Then the evolutionary biologist Kevin Esvelt, who runs the Sculpting Evolution Group at M.I.T.’s Media Lab, realized that, by attaching a gene drive to a desired DNA sequence with crispr, you could permanently alter the genetic destiny of a species. That’s because, with crispr, a change made on one chromosome would copy itself in every successive generation, so that nearly all descendants would inherit the change. A mutation that blocked the parasite responsible for malaria, for instance, could be engineered into a mosquito and passed down every time it reproduced. Within a year or two, none of the original mosquito’s offspring would be able to transmit the infection. And if gene drives work for malaria they ought to work for other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue, yellow fever, and Zika.

This is tremendously promising news, but nothing so powerful comes without risk—and there has never been a more powerful biological tool…

…Pretty soon, we are going to have to make some of the most pressing decisions we have ever made about how, whether, and when to deploy a new technology.

«

link to this extract

 


The end of reflection • The New York Times

Teddy Wayne:

»By 2012, Google engineers had discovered that when results take longer than two-fifths of a second to appear, people search less, and lagging just one quarter of a second behind a rival site can drive users away.

“That hints at the way that, as our technologies increase the intensity of stimulation and the flow of new things, we adapt to that pace,” [author of The Shallows, Nichola] Carr said. “We become less patient. When moments without stimulation arise, we start to feel panicked and don’t know what to do with them, because we’ve trained ourselves to expect this stimulation — new notifications and alerts and so on.”

What this often translates to in the discourse of the internet is demand for immediate and perfunctory “hot takes” rather than carefully weighed judgments, whether they’re about serious or superficial matters.

Mr. Carr also noted counterarguments: Formulating relatively simple thoughts on the internet can yield more complex ones through real-time exchanges with others, and people whose reflex is to post a notion hastily rather than let it sit may not have been the most deliberative thinkers in a pre-smartphone time, either.

Nevertheless, he sees our current direction as indicative of “the loss of the contemplative mind,” he said.

«

link to this extract

 


What is Differential Privacy’? • A Few Thoughts On Cryptographic Engineering

Matthew Green of Johns Hopkins University, explaining the system Apple says it’s using for its machine learning system:

»A much more promising approach is not to collect the raw data at all. This approach was recently pioneered by Google to collect usage statistics in their Chrome browser. The system, called RAPPOR, is based on an implementation of the 50-year old randomized response technique. Randomized response works as follows:

• When a user wants to report a piece of potentially embarrassing information (made up example: “Do you use Bing?”), they first flip a coin, and if the coin comes up “heads”, they return a random answer — calculated by flipping a second coin. Otherwise they answer honestly.

• The server then collects answers from the entire population, and (knowing the probability that the coins will come up “heads”), adjusts for the included “noise” to compute an approximate answer for the true response rate.

Intuitively, randomized response protects the privacy of individual user responses, because a “yes” result could mean that you use Bing, or it could just be the effect of the first mechanism (the random coin flip). More formally, randomized response has been shown to achieve Differential Privacy, with specific guarantees that can adjusted by fiddling with the coin bias.

RAPPOR takes this relatively old technique and turns it into something much more powerful. Instead of simply responding to a single question, it can report on complex vectors of questions, and may even return complicated answers, such as strings – e.g., which default homepage you use. The latter is accomplished by first encoding the string into a Bloom filter – a bitstring constructed using hash functions in a very specific way. The resulting bits are then injected with noise, and summed, and the answers recovered using a (fairly complex) decoding process.

«

I think “it’s complicated” will probably do as a first pass.
link to this extract

 


Android share growth slows after historic gains last period • Kantar Worldpanel

»“In Great Britain, both Android and iOS had higher market share in the three months ending April 2016. Android represented 58.5% of the market in that period, a gain of 4.1% year-on-year,” said Dominic Sunnebo, Business Unit Director for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Europe. “And for iOS, this term showed the first increase since October 2015, though modest at just 0.4%, from 34.7% to 35.1%. Android gains came from Windows phone owners switching, a trend that produced nearly 10% of new Android customers, while 21.8% of new iOS buyers switched from Android.”

«

In other words: Windows Phone, the platform, is burning, and not in a good way. This will sound familiar to students of history, and not in a good way either.

»

“In Urban China, Android share rose 4.8% year-over-year, and 1.1% period-over-period, to capture 78.8% of smartphone sales in the three months ending April 2016,” noted Tamsin Timpson, Strategic Insight Director at Kantar Worldpanel ComTech Asia. “While movement from featurephones to smartphones has slowed significantly in developed markets like the US and EU5, this still makes up a significant proportion of smartphone sales in Urban China. Nearly a third of Android users during this time were purchasing their first smartphone, in contrast to iOS buyers, of whom only 14% were first-time smartphone customers.”

«

That doesn’t tell us whether Chinese iOS buyers were moving from Android in any measurable quantity. But clearly Android is still effective at gaining from featurephones.
link to this extract

 


A Trump rally in Greensboro • · Storify

Jared Yates Sexton went along and tweeted what he saw and heard, with this as the tagline:

»”Anger in here is palpable”: in which a sane man live tweets insanity.

«

It really is scary. (Over 170,000 views at the time of tagging.) A question one might like to consider is whether Trump would let his wife walk unaccompanied through the car park following one of his rallies. (There’s more of Sexton’s work on this blog.)
link to this extract

 


OnePlus X series is no more, says CEO • Engadget

Richard Lai:

»While it’s common practice for smartphone makers to offer two or three product lines to cover all the bases, OnePlus has recently decided to go from two to one. At the OnePlus 3 launch event in Shenzhen today, CEO Pete Lau confirmed that his company’s more affordable offering, the OnePlus X, will not have a followup model. That’s not to say it was a bad phone (even we liked it) nor was it unpopular, but Lau reasoned that OnePlus will instead focus on just one “true flagship” line from now on, in order to strengthen its foundation – something that Lau admitted his team neglected last year – rather than fighting the low-end price war.

«

OnePlus is on thin margins and (comparatively) low volumes, so it has to shift towards premium pricing to survive.
link to this extract

 


Now Peter Thiel’s lawyer wants to silence reporting on Trump’s hair [Updated] • Gawker

J K Trotter:

»But if you were under the impression that praise-worthy journalism [investigating whether Donald Trump’s hair is a $60,000 wig/weave – which I would think is very likely indeed] is somehow inoculated against campaigns like Thiel’s, you’d be mistaken. Last week, Thiel’s lawyer-for-hire, Charles J. Harder, sent Gawker a letter on behalf of Ivari International’s owner and namesake, Edward Ivari, in which Harder claims that Feinberg’s story was “false and defamatory,” invaded Ivari’s privacy, intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and committed “tortious interference” with Ivari’s business relations. Harder enumerates 19 different purportedly defamatory statements—almost all of which were drawn from several publicly available lawsuits filed against Ivari.

Harder’s demands included the immediate removal of the story from Gawker, a public apology, the preservation of “all physical and electronic documents, materials and data in your possession” related to the story, and, notably, that we reveal our sources.

«

Thiel’s lawyer’s filing is nonsense; and Gawker now does not give a flying one how much it offends either of them. When you’re on Death Row, death threats hardly scare you.
link to this extract

 


Shutterbugs, rejoice: Apple’s iOS 10 will shoot raw photos • CNET

Stephen Shankland:

»Apple’s next-gen iOS 10 software adds a new programming interface that will let camera apps retrieve unprocessed raw photo data from the camera hardware, according to Apple developer documentation. Google’s Android has supported raw photos since the release of the Lollipop version in 2014.

There’s a good reason Apple didn’t include raw photo support in its top-10 list of new iOS 10 features unveiled at its annual Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) Monday. Raw photography is complex and too much of a hassle for most people to bother with. But with photography now so central to mobile phones, and with photo enthusiasts being such an active and visible type of customer, raw photo support is a major improvement. Raw photos should help Apple’s iPhones keep their place atop the list of most popular cameras on Flickr, the photo-sharing site.

«

link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: hacking Dems, Theranos loses another, Apple’s non-chatbot chatbots, slimmer Xbox!, and more

Remember when Obama had a BlackBerry? He doesn’t any more – though he’s not saying what he does have. Photo by rowdyman on Flickr.

Don’t you dare sign up to receive each day’s Start Up post by email. No, really.

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 14 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Russian government hackers penetrated DNC, stole opposition research on Trump • The Washington Post

»Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to the entire database of opposition research on GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, according to committee officials and security experts who responded to the breach.

The intruders so thoroughly compromised the DNC’s system that they also were able to read all email and chat traffic, said DNC officials and the security experts.

The intrusion into the DNC was one of several targeting American political organizations. The networks of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were also targeted by Russian spies, as were the computers of some GOP political action committees, U.S. officials said. But details on those cases were not available.

A Russian Embassy spokesman said he had no knowledge of such intrusions.

«

link to this extract

 


The evil that is VPAID ads • Google+

Artem Russakovskii:

»A few months ago, I complained about the insane state of today’s advertising and the evil that is VPAID ads.

These ads destroy performance, leech bandwidth by 10s of megabytes, and are served by major ad networks, including Google’s own AdX and AdSense.

Today, these VPAID ads are as popular as ever – and that is just disgusting. They’re the real cancer of the advertising industry.

To showcase just how evil they still are, I took a single AdX ad tag and put it on an otherwise empty page. A static image ad loads, but it’s secretly a VPAID one. It then randomly switches to a video, then back to a static image, then back again – it’s like a never-ending self-reloading cascade of garbage.

Right now after several minutes of just leaving this one single ad open, I’m at 53MB downloaded and 5559 requests. By the time I finished typing this, I was at 6140 requests. A single ad did this. Without reloading the page, just leaving it open.

«

link to this extract

 


Obama finally upgraded from his BlackBerry • The Verge

Jacob Kastrenakes:

»President Obama has finally been allowed to replace his BlackBerry with something more modern — but he apparently isn’t thrilled with this new phone either.

“I get the thing, and they’re all like, ‘Well, Mr. President, for security reasons … it doesn’t take pictures, you can’t text, the phone doesn’t work, … you can’t play your music on it,'” Obama said during an appearance on The Tonight Show this week. “Basically, it’s like, does your three year old have one of those play phones?”

Obama’s been joking about his awful phone situation for years now. While his BlackBerry was considered surprisingly high-tech when he came into office, the situation quickly changed. As far back as 2010, Obama called using his BlackBerry “no fun,” and then a few years ago he lamented that security concerns prevent him from using an iPhone. While discussing his BlackBerry on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last year, Obama started laughing after a single person applauded. “The one old guy there,” Obama said, “He’s my age. Somebody my generation.”

«

Obama came into office eight years ago, and so was campaigning as much as ten years ago, when his use of its seemed radical. Times change. The unanswered question: what is he using?
link to this extract

 


Walgreen terminates partnership with blood-testing firm Theranos • WSJ

Michael Siconolfi, Christopher Weaver and John Carreyrou:

»Drugstore operator Walgreen Co. formally ended a strained alliance with Theranos Inc. as regulators near a decision on whether to impose sanctions against the embattled Silicon Valley firm.

Some officials at the Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. unit had grown frustrated at not getting more details and documentation from Theranos after learning it had corrected tens of thousands of blood tests, including many performed on samples collected from patients at Walgreens pharmacies, according to people familiar with the partnership.

In a news release late Sunday, Walgreens said it had told Theranos it was terminating their nearly three-year-old partnership, effective immediately, and that it was shutting down Theranos lab-testing services in Walgreens locations…

…The move is a significant blow to Theranos. The 40 Theranos blood-draw sites inside Walgreens stores in Arizona, which the company calls “wellness centers,” have been the primary source of revenue for Theranos and its conduit to consumers, analysts say. The tie-up also has given the blood-testing firm a stamp of credibility since it was publicly announced in September 2013.

«

This feels like the third act of a Greek tragedy; Theranos certainly sounds like it should come from a Greek word, perhaps meaning “the aching desire to find a cheap way to test blood”, but I can’t find a meaningful translation anywhere. Presently being turned into a screenplay, with Jennifer Lawrence slated to play Elizabeth Holmes, so the big question is: will Bradley Cooper play John Carreyrou of the WSJ who exposed it all?

link to this extract

 


Apple’s response to the chatbot craze doesn’t involve any chatbots • VentureBeat

Jordan Novet:

»Microsoft has been letting developers build integrations into Skype, and Facebook has been doing the same with Messenger. Google has revealed related plans for its forthcoming Allo app. Kik, Line, and Telegram have begun accepting outside integrations, as well. Even in the parallel universe of enterprise software, this trend is playing out — Slack is the greatest example there.

But all of these companies have chosen a text-messaging interface through which people will talk to other services — namely chatbots. Apple, in its infinite Apple-ness, is circumventing the hype around bots and will be simply letting developers build app extensions that live inside of a new “app drawer,” which users will open in Messages on iOS 10 by tapping the little blue A button that historically stands for App Store.

Developers can build these iMessage Apps using the iOS software development kit (SDK), which became available today in the beta release of Xcode 8. It’s possible to fine-tune the look and functionality of these mini apps, so that they don’t just look like the rest of Messages. (Documentation is already available.)

Onstage today, Apple’s Craig Federighi talked about a Square Cash iMessage app. It’s a bright green widget that pops up in place of the keyboard. A user selected $200 as the amount on a scrollable dial and then hit the pay button to pay that amount to the message recipient. The result was a box right underneath an earlier text message with a big $200 bill and a link to “tap here to deposit this cash.”

Federighi also demonstrated a DoorDash iMessage App through which multiple people could collaborate on one food delivery order. In a message bubble, this iMessage App displayed a dish from San Francisco restaurant and food truck operator Curry Up Now, with a little red DoorDash logo in the top left. Underneath that, there was some text — “3 people,” “Brian Croll added 2 items,” and a grand total so far of $48.68. “So I could just tap in and see what’s going on,” Federighi said. After tapping on the widget he was confronted with a full screen showing more detail, courtesy of DoorDash — a menu, prices, estimated delivery time, and a “view group cart” button. From there, Federighi checked out the cart and then added to it. When he was done, the DoorDash widget that had originally appeared in his Messages group chat was updated to reflect the changes to the order.

«

In other words, you don’t need to talk to machines to get machines to do your bidding. I don’t get the chatbot thing; it seems like wasted effort.
link to this extract

 


iOS 10.0 • Apple Developer documentation

»In iOS 10, the NSUserActivity object includes the mapItem property, which lets you provide location information that can be used in other contexts. For example, if your app displays hotel reviews, you can use the mapItem property to hold the location of the hotel the user is viewing so that when the user switches to a travel planning app, that hotel’s location is automatically available. And if you support app search, you can use the new text-based address component properties in CSSearchableItemAttributeSet, such as thoroughfare and postalCode, to fully specify locations to which the user may want to go. Note that when you use the mapItem property, the system automatically populates the contentAttributeSet property, too.

To share a location with the system, be sure to specify latitude and longitude values, in addition to values for the address component properties in CSSearchableItemAttributeSet. It’s also recommended that you supply a value for the namedLocation property, so that users can view the name of the location, and the phoneNumbers property, so that users can use Siri to initiate a call to the location.

«

So you can switch apps and have Siri call the hotel you were just looking at. Quite neat. Also notable in the documentation: “True Tone”, the ambient display adjustment presently only on the 9.7in iPad Pro, becomes part of the OS. It’ll surely be on the forthcoming iPhones.

And why link to this but not the Android N documentation? Because this will be on about half of iOS 10-capable devices within a month of release. Android M, released last year, is on perhaps 100m devices after nine months.
link to this extract

 


Intel gets chip order from Apple, its first major mobile win • Bloomberg

Ian King and Scott Moritz:

»Apple’s next iPhone will use modems from Intel Corp., replacing Qualcomm chips in some versions of the new handset, a move by the world’s most-valuable public company to diversify its supplier base.

Apple has chosen Intel modem chips for the iPhone used on AT&T’s U.S. network and some other versions of the smartphone for overseas markets, said people familiar with the matter. IPhones on Verizon Communications’s network will stick with parts from Qualcomm, which is the only provider of the main communications component of current versions of Apple’s flagship product. Crucially for Qualcomm, iPhones sold in China will work on Qualcomm chips, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Apple hasn’t made its plans public.

«

So this seems like Qualcomm keeps the CDMA versions, but Intel gets the GSM market. China might be a toss-up.
link to this extract

 


Devices able to run iOS 10, biggest iOS release ever • Apple

»iOS 10 will be available this fall as a free software update for iPhone 5 and later, all iPad Air and iPad Pro models, iPad 4th generation, iPad mini 2 and later, and iPod touch 6th generation.

«

Ah, so that’s a lot clearer. There seemed to be suggestion on Monday that it would run on the iPad 2 and iPad 3; but they’re explicitly not in the list for the iPad. (Nor is the first iPad mini.)

The minimum iPad spec is the iPad 4, or iPad mini 2; for the phones, it’s the iPhone 5/C (which are the same thing).
link to this extract

 


Microsoft reveals the new, slimmer Xbox One S, coming this August • TechCrunch

Brian Heater:

»The system the company showed off today arrived in a bright white color (“robot white,” according to press materials), a lightening up of the previous console. The device will come with a vertical stand, so users can decide how they want to orient it on their shelf.

The Xbox One S is 40% slimmer than the last version. Inside you’ll find a hard drive sporting up to 2TB and an integrated power supply. The new console features a built-in IR blaster, front-facing USB port (there are still two on the rear) and does 4K video. The One S also features HDR video support, for a more vibrantly colored gaming experience and higher contrast between dark colors and light.

«

One area that smartphones and tablets haven’t quite swallowed up. Notable how much more storage they’re offering; even as games are increasingly downloaded from the cloud, gamers want more local storage to keep data.
link to this extract

 


This USB adapter is Microsoft’s final admission that Kinect failed • The Verge

Tom Warren:

»Hardware planning takes years, and it’s clear Microsoft quickly realized that bundling Kinect was a mistake. The new Xbox One S doesn’t even include a Kinect port, and Microsoft has created a USB adapter that you’ll need to use if you want Kinect support. It’s a free adapter if you already own an Xbox One and Kinect…

…Microsoft is now working to bring Cortana to the Xbox One in an update this summer. While it was originally supposed to debut last year, Microsoft announced Cortana would require Kinect at E3 last year, before mysteriously delaying the feature. It’s clear part of that delay was related to getting headsets working with Cortana, and you won’t need a Kinect to use the digital assistant this summer.

The removal of the Kinect port on the Xbox One S is the final admission that Microsoft’s accessory is dead. It’s hard to imagine that the Project Scorpio console will re-introduce a Kinect port next year, and the accessory wasn’t even mentioned during any of Microsoft’s demos on stage. Microsoft claimed at E3 last year that “there are games actually that are coming out for Kinect,” but at E3 this year the only mention is a USB adapter that admits Kinect failed.

«

Kinect is such an odd footnote in tech history: the fastest-selling piece of tech ever, considered a potentially useful tool for surgeons, and now an undesired add-on.
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Follow the sun • The Economist

»Led by big projects in these two countries [China and India], global solar-energy capacity rose by 26% last year. More remarkable is the decline in its cost. Studies of the “levelised cost” of electricity, which estimate the net present value of the costs of a generating system divided by the expected output over its lifetime, show solar getting close to gas and coal as an attractively cheap source of power. Auctions of long-term contracts to purchase solar power in developing countries such as South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, Peru and Mexico provide real-world evidence that such assumptions may even prove to be conservative (see chart).

In sunny places solar power is now “shoulder to shoulder” with gas, coal and wind, says Cédric Philibert of the International Energy Agency, a prominent forecaster. He notes that since November 2014, when Dubai awarded a project to build 200MW of solar power at less than $60 a megawatt hour (MWh), auctions have become increasingly competitive.

«

And that’s because the price of solar panels has fallen by 80% since 2010. Hell of a thing.
link to this extract

 


Yes, there have been aliens • The New York Times

Adam Frank, who co-wrote a scientific paper on this vexed question:

»Instead of asking how many civilizations currently exist, we asked what the probability is that ours is the only technological civilization that has ever appeared. By asking this question, we could bypass the factor about the average lifetime of a civilization. This left us with only three unknown factors, which we combined into one “biotechnical” probability: the likelihood of the creation of life, intelligent life and technological capacity.

You might assume this probability is low, and thus the chances remain small that another technological civilization arose. But what our calculation revealed is that even if this probability is assumed to be extremely low, the odds that we are not the first technological civilization are actually high. Specifically, unless the probability for evolving a civilization on a habitable-zone planet is less than one in 10 billion trillion, then we are not the first.

To give some context for that figure: In previous discussions of the Drake equation, a probability for civilizations to form of one in 10 billion per planet was considered highly pessimistic. According to our finding, even if you grant that level of pessimism, a trillion civilizations still would have appeared over the course of cosmic history.

«

So howcome they haven’t got in touch asking to borrow money? (The paper is available in full for free.)
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Motorola confirms Moto 360 Gen. 1 will not receive Android Wear 2.0 update • Android Police

David Ruddock:

»While you may have seen reports via Motorola’s Twitter account that the Moto 360 Gen. 1 would not be receiving Wear 2.0, we decided to follow up with Motorola’s official PR this morning on this news and received direct confirmation: the Moto 360 Gen. 1 won’t get Wear 2.0.

The Moto 360 was heavily hyped leading up to its launch nearly two years ago, and understandably so: a [semi-]circular display made it stand out from pretty much any smartwatch that had been released previously. While LG’s G Watch R was, in my opinion, a better take on the circular watch, the Moto 360 still stood out with its small bezels and minimalistic, lugless style. It really was, and is, a striking device.

Still, it seems more than a bit frustrating that Android Wear devices – which Google has time and again implied shouldn’t “age” like your smartphone does as new OS updates launch – are seemingly little-different in terms of support windows than smartphones. Watches, after all, are supposed to last for years, especially watches that cost upwards of $300.

«

Lenovo’s acquisition of Motorola completed in October 2014, having been announced in January 2014. The Moto 360v1 was launched in September 2014, and would have been in the works for at least a year before. Lenovo is now losing money on its smartphone business.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Lenovo/Motorola quietly dropped out of the Android Wear business at least until that specific sector shows signs of life. Speaking of which…
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How will the $34bn wearables market combat wearables fatigue? • Forbes

Paul Armstrong:

»Some sobering stats:

•50% of consumers lose interest in the product within a few months. [Endeavour Partners]
•More than half of US wearable owners who have owned a device no longer use it. [Pew Research, 2013]
The wearables market will be worth $34bn in 2020. [CCS Insight]


SOURCE: CCS Insight

It takes 66 days to make a new behaviour stick – that’s a long time in the fast-paced, notification saturated world we live in. Wearable devices can help but the person has to have a decent amount of willpower or the behaviour wanes. Successful apps usually demonstrate a good combination. For example; a fitness tracker and something like MyFitnessPal which monitors macronutrients food intake and can give you some great data points but it doesn’t give tailored advice. Based on the data above there may be trouble ahead if consumers don’t begin seeing value in wearable devices. The issues are clear – either the tech doesn’t work or it’s not of value.

«

Wearables’ biggest problem is battery life, no doubt. Means you have to take them off.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: the USB-C screwup, faster pages with annoying ads!, celeb fattening, thermostat wars, and more

Flying Car
Come on, this stuff has been around for ages. Well, maybe not. Drawing by Josué Menjivar on Flickr.

A selection of 13 links for you. Use them wisely. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Public service announcement: USB-C on Apple’s new MacBook is a circus • 9to5Mac

Jordan Kahn:

»It would be fine if all of those USB-C accessories you purchased for your 2015 MacBook were firmware upgradeable and received updates like Apple’s own products, but many of them are not. So if you have accessories purchased for the 2015 MacBook, there is a good possibility they won’t work with your 2016 MacBook or any other new USB-C device. Accessory makers also tell me Apple changed power protocols in the 2016 MacBook meaning 5W-12W battery packs that could be used with the 2015 model over USB-C no longer work with the new 2016 model now requiring at least 18W. And if you grab a USB-C cable or other accessory, don’t expect it to just work with your Mac. Not such a great situation for a standard that’s supposed to, you know, standardize compatibility of products using the spec.

Want to run a 4K display over USB-C— a feature that is technically supported— on your MacBook? Good luck…

Even if everything wasn’t a complete mess with USB-C, there is the issue of 4K displays and the new MacBook. Apple doesn’t support 4K at 60 Hz refresh rate, although Jeff recently discovered a hack to get it working at your own risk. That’s if you can even find a monitor, like this one from LG, that will support your MacBook.

«

Jeez. Apple strongly hinted, with the 2016 MacBook, that its future models will use USB-C too: the MacBook is “our vision for the future of the notebook”, says the quote. Hmm.
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Welcome to Larry Page’s secret flying car factories • Bloomberg

Ashlee Vance and Brad Stone:

»Zee.Aero doesn’t belong to Google or its holding company, Alphabet. It belongs to Larry Page, Google’s co-founder. Page has personally funded Zee.Aero since its launch in 2010 while demanding that his involvement stay hidden from the public, according to 10 people with intimate knowledge of the company. Zee.Aero, however, is just one part of Page’s plan to usher in an age of personalized air travel, free from gridlocked streets and the cramped indignities of modern flight. Like Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, Page is using his personal fortune to build the future of his childhood dreams.

The Zee.Aero headquarters, located at 2700 Broderick Way, is a 30,000-square-foot, two-story white building with an ugly, blocky design and an industrial feel. Page initially restricted the Zee.Aero crew to the first floor, retaining the second floor for a man cave worthy of a multibillionaire: bedroom, bathroom, expensive paintings, a treadmill-like climbing wall, and one of SpaceX’s first rocket engines — a gift from his pal Musk. As part of the secrecy, Zee.Aero employees didn’t refer to Page by name; he was known as GUS, the guy upstairs. Soon enough, they needed the upstairs space, too, and engineers looked on in awe as GUS’s paintings, exercise gear, and rocket engine were hauled away.

«

Sure to be a success just like Verily. Um, like Nest?
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Google is bringing new ad types to AMP, including those annoying flying carpet ads • TechCrunch

Frederic Lardinois:

»Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) ads are probably the closest to the platonic ideal of having ads on AMP pages because they are meant to load as fast as the AMP page itself. These ads are written in pure AMP HTML, which is the main component that makes AMP posts load as fast as they do.

Sticky ads, which will stay either at the top or bottom of the page as you scroll through an article are pretty standard outside of AMP pages and tend to be relatively unobtrusive.

It’s sad to see that the AMP project will soon allow for pages to feature one of the most annoying new ad types we’ve seen pop up recently: flying carpet ads. Those are the ads that hijack the page’s scrolling behavior so a large ad can scroll by instead.

Publishers will be able to use this ‘flying carpet’ effect for showing regular images or other content as well.

«

How quickly the “platonic ideal” erodes and turns instead to “meh, just do what the advertisers want.” Here’s how Google’s blogpost on this change starts:

»When the AMP team set out to help make mobile experiences great for everybody, the objective wasn’t just to improve a user’s engagement with content. We knew the experience people had with ads was equally important to help publishers fund the great content we all love to read.

«

Um.. it feels more like “we knew the experience people had with ads wouldn’t affect whether or not we served those sorts of ads.” Because those are annoying ads.
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What the iPhone SE taught me about the smartphone market • Tech.pinions

Ben Bajarin switched from an iPhone 6 Plus (5.5in screen( to an iPhone SE (4in) for a week, and found he didn’t want to change back:

»Bigger screen personal computers allow us to do more and be more productive. However, the tasks which require more screen real estate are generally not the most common tasks. What my time with the SE made me realize was, in general, the benefits I got from the larger screen, in terms of productivity, were things I did less frequently. Perhaps most surprisingly, this experiment caused me to reconsider the productivity and efficiency I lost in being able to operate my smartphone solely with one hand. This is the real stand out observation of my time with the SE.

My conviction that the larger the screen, the more productive I could be, was made without fully understanding the trade-offs of losing one-handed operation. The Plus sized iPhone requires two hands to do just about anything unless you have extremely large hands. Being able to reach every aspect of my screen while holding the phone one-handed might actually be the most productive and efficient scenario for a mobile device.

If I was weighing one-handed operation against the many other trade-offs I’ve come across using smartphones of all shapes and sizes, I think one-handed use is the one thing not worth compromising on if possible.

«

Which then has implications for the rest of the smartphone market. (Paywalled: you can buy a one-off login or subscribe.)
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The explainable • ROUGH TYPE

Nick Carr:

»[Author of a book about the 11th edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, Denis] Boyles points out that the Britannica’s eleventh edition underpins Wikipedia, and in Wikipedia we see, more clearly than ever, the elevation of and emphasis on measurement as the standard of knowledge and knowability. Wikipedia is pretty good, and ambitiously thorough, on technical and scientific topics, but it’s scattershot, and often just flat-out bad, in its coverage of topics in the humanities. Wikipedia’s editors, as Edward Mendelson has recently suggested, are comfortable in documenting consensus but completely uncomfortable in exercising taste. The kind of informed subjective judgment that is essential to any perceptive discussion of art, literature, or even history is explicitly outlawed at Wikipedia. And Wikipedia, like the eleventh edition of the Britannica, is a reflection of its time. The boundary we draw around “the explainable” is tighter than ever.

“Technical and scientific advances became confused with progress,” says Boyles, and so it is today, a century later.

«

link to this extract


Study reveals which celebrities are paid millions to endorse junk food and soda • ScienceAlert

Peter Dockrill:

»After going through Billboard’s ‘Hot 100′ song charts from 2013 and 2014 to make a list today’s successful acts, [the scientists at New York University] then catalogued 15 years’ worth of endorsements recorded between 2000 and 2014 by advertising database AdScope, which tracks ads on TV, radio, and print. The researchers also looked at YouTube and other online sources.

What they found was 65 pop stars who had made deals with 57 different food and beverage brands. Among these, some of the most famous and lucrative deals are Beyonce’s arrangement with Pepsi – estimated to be worth $50 million – and Justin Timberlake’s “I’m lovin’ it” contract promoting McDonalds, thought to be worth $6 million.

Timberlake was also among the pop celebrities with the most endorsements, which also included Baauer, will.i.am, Maroon 5, and Britney Spears, Pitbull, and Jessie J. But you can see more – including Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, Shakira, Katy Perry, and more – along with the products they’re signed up with in the study published in Pediatrics.

«

There’s also an image embed from the study which shows all the endorsements. Scary list.
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[Update: June OTA does not contain fix] Some Pixel C owners are reporting random reboots after the May Over-The-Air update • Android Police

Michael Crider:

»Google’s commitment to Android in the form of monthly updates for its own branded hardware is pretty great… until it’s not. That’s the case with the May security and stability update for the top-of-the-line Pixel C tablet, which has created some serious headaches for owners. Some (but by no means all) owners of the Pixel C are reporting more or less random reboots of the tablet, usually occurring every five to thirty minutes when the Pixel C is off its charger.

«

As the headline says, the June update doesn’t fix it either. None of Apple, Microsoft or Google has sorted this “updates which work perfectly to update your own-brand devices” thing: there have been iPad Pros bricked by 9.3.2, Surfaces with graphics issues, and this for Google. Not sure there is a moral – except perhaps “don’t accept the update until you’ve seen what happens to everyone else”?
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Analysis of Twitter.com password leak • LeakedSource

»This data set contains 32,888,300 records. Each record may contain an email address, a username, sometimes a second email and a visible password. We have very strong evidence that Twitter was not hacked, rather the consumer was. These credentials however are real and valid. Out of 15 users we asked, all 15 verified their passwords.

The explanation for this is that tens of millions of people have become infected by malware, and the malware sent every saved username and password from browsers like Chrome and Firefox back to the hackers from all websites including Twitter.

The proof for this explanation is as follows:

• The join dates of some users with uncrackable (yet plaintext) passwords were recent. There is no way that Twitter stores passwords in plaintext in 2014 for example.
• There was a very significant amount of users with the password “” and “null”. Some browsers store passwords as “” if you don’t enter a password when you save your credentials.
•The top email domains don’t match up to a full database leak; more likely the malware was spread to Russians.

«

Websites including Twitter. That’s worrying. There’s also a list of the passwords used. Guess which six-character one comes top?
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App Store subscription uncertainty • Daring Fireball

John Gruber points out that Apple VP Phil Schiller saying “any app can be a subscription app” clashes with Apple’s own marketing material, which says subscription apps “must provide ongoing value”:

»I don’t think subscription pricing — even if Apple clarified that subscriptions are open to any app, period — is a panacea. There is no perfect way to sell software. The old way — pay up front, then pay for major upgrades in the future — has problems, too, just a different set of problems. If I had my druthers Apple would enable paid upgrades in the App Store(s), but I get the feeling that’s not in the cards. That leaves us with subscriptions.

DF reader Sean Harding framed the problems with subscription pricing well, in a short series of tweets:

»

I think the new stuff is good, but I don’t think it really solves the upgrade pricing problem from a customer standpoint. A sub forces me to effectively always buy the upgrade or stop using even the old version. I don’t dislike subscriptions because I don’t want to pay. I just want freedom to decide if the new features are worth paying for.

«

«

That “what if I don’t want the new features?” question – and the allied one, “what if the developer of a subscription app falls under a bus” – seems like a new set of teething problems. Alongside paid search, of course.
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Tesco Mobile lets customers reduce bills by viewing ads • Total Telecom

Nick Wood:

»Tesco Mobile announced on Thursday it is giving customers the option to lower their monthly bills in return for watching adverts.

The scheme is called Tesco Mobile Xtras, and has been brought about by a partnership between the U.K. MVNO and mobile advertising platform Unlockd.

Unlockd has created an Android app that serves targeted offers and content at various times when the end user unlocks their smartphone. By viewing the ads or marketing offers, customers can lower their monthly bill by up to £3 (€3.83)…

…Many others have attempted to woo customers with the promise of free or cut-price mobile service in return for consuming adverts, with limited success.

First came Blyk, which offered free service to 16-24 year-olds provided they clicked on ads. 200,000 signed up in the first year, but momentum stalled, and the MVNO shut down its mobile service in July 2009.

Samba Mobile, another ad-funded free MVNO, gave mobile data to customers who interacted with adverts. It closed down after it failed to negotiate a lower wholesale data price with its network provider.

«

And there are plenty of others. If your bill is really high, £3 isn’t going to make a difference. If it’s really low, will you view enough ads to make the differential worthwhile – and are you a worthwhile target of those “targeted” apps?
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Inside the bitter last days of Bernie’s revolution • POLITICO

Edward-Isaac Dovere and Gabriel DeBenedetti with a (very) long insight into the Sanders campaign:

»Top Sanders aides admit that it’s been weeks, if not months, since they themselves realized he wasn’t going to win, and they’ve been operating with a Trump’s-got-no-real-shot safety net. They debate whether Sanders’ role in the fall should be a full vote-for-Clinton campaign, or whether he should just campaign hard against Trump without signing up to do much for her directly.

They haven’t been able to get Sanders focused on any of that, or on the real questions about what kind of long term organization to build out of his email list. They know they’ll have their own rally in Philadelphia – outside the the convention hall—but that’s about as far as they’ve gotten.

“He wants to be in the race until the end, until the roll call vote,” Weaver said.

Aides say they’re going to discourage people from booing Wasserman Schultz, who’s emerged as public enemy number one among Sanders supporters, when she takes the stage at the convention. But they think it’s going to happen anyway.

Meanwhile, they’re looking into trying to replace the Florida congresswoman as the convention chair with Gabbard, and force Wasserman Schultz to resign as DNC chair the day after the convention.

«

Viewed from afar, it seems like both political parties in the US are undergoing upheavals. Perhaps some good will come of it.
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Magic Leap denies patent drawings depict secret product • Mashable

Adario Strange:

»When I met with Magic Leap last year, I spent a great deal of time hammering away for a description of what the device looks like and how it works. And while I don’t have an image of the final Magic Leap product, which has been described as delivering interactive augmented reality, the device shown in the drawings looks nothing like what was described to me during that meeting.

To that end, I reached out to the company and got an answer regarding the new drawings. Magic Leap’s vice president of public relations, Andy Fouché, told me that the patent drawings were in fact “part of [Magic Leap’s] R+D and experience validation” and that “it’s not at all what our product will look like.”

link to this extract


Comfy raises $12m for app to end office thermostat wars • TechCrunch

Lora Kolodny:

»Building Robotics Inc., better known as Comfy, raised $12m in Series B funding for building automation software that helps companies save energy on office air conditioning while gathering employee-contributed data about the use and occupancy of a workspace.

Emergence Capital led the investment, joined by real estate services company CBRE and Microsoft Ventures.

According to company president Lindsay Baker, letting employees tweak the temperature around their cubicle can improve productivity and happiness. “It’s a very real thing that temperature and light can slow us down, distract us, make us hungry or impact our hormones,” she said.

Baker explained that Comfy is a simple-to-use app that employees put on their phones and use to request warm or cool air in a zone where they work. The app uses employee-contributed data, and combines it with usage data and patterns, to tune every zone in an office building based on the routine preferences of people who work in each zone there.

«

Except of course there won’t be any agreement between the people in adjoining cubicles about what temperature is the right temperature. This reminds me of the experiment where every bus passenger was given a steering wheel, the input from which was aggregated to steer the whole bus. Fairly sure the bus crashed.

(Spare a thought too for Kolodny, whom one can imagine writing this and risking narcolepsy.)
link to this extract


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

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Apple’s paid search experiment shows there’s still no PageRank for apps


Hey, over here! Paid ads need to be relevant. Photo by Michael Rehfeldt on Flickr.

So Apple is doing it: introducing paid search ads to the App Store. People will go to the App Store, search for something, and if a developer has bought an app ad (it can only be an app; no links to content outside the store) and it’s deemed relevant by Apple’s algorithm, then one will appear at the top of the results, backgrounded in blue and making it clear it’s not part of the organic listing. Apple has put up more of the detail.

Of course this has riled developers, for reasons I’ll explain. But a few things first.

There will only be one ad because, Phil Schiller told me, people are going to be searching on mobile, and “we don’t want to push organic search results too far down the list.”

Schiller’s rationale for introducing paid search goes like this. People who want to get apps find them through searching: there are hundreds of millions of searches every week on the App Store. Two-thirds of downloads come via searches. If you want to advertise your app to people who are looking for your app, or something like it, where would you want to advertise?

Logic would suggest you’d do it right there, around search. But until Monday (when it starts in the US, in beta) that avenue hasn’t been available. So developers have resorted to all sorts of tactics – social media, plying reviewers with downloads in the hope of good reviews, paying reviewers for good reviews (on some of the scuzzier sites), buying ads that redirected to the App Store (which I think indirectly drove Apple’s introduction of content blockers), trying anything.

So Apple says: hey, stop spending your marketing money where you can’t be sure anyone will see your efforts. Instead, do it on the App Store, where you know they’re searching!

The mechanics are pretty much identical to Google’s AdWords (the mechanism that puts up ads against searches on Google). It’s an auction system, where the winner pays only what the second-highest bidder offered (so you bid $4, I bid $5, I win but pay $4), and pay-per-click – you only pay if someone does click. No minimum bid, no exclusivity.

“We look at it as giving every developer the chance to drive downloads through marketing,” Schiller said.

Meritocracy has been delayed

This, then, is Apple’s answer to developers’ and users’ repeated complaints that “search in the App Store is broken”. The basis of the complaint is that when you search for apps, you get too many junk results for apps that aren’t relevant, or are outdated/un-updated, or which are straight-up ripoffs.

In other words, there’s still no PageRank for app search. But that’s what people really, really want. Developers and users want a meritocracy; by going for paid ads, Apple is instead giving them an oligarchy.

Ahead of the call with Schiller, I contacted various developers, and some users on the Above Avalon Slack channel (you have to subscribe; totally worth it in my view). I didn’t say that Apple had any changes coming; instead I just asked what three things they’d like to see improved about the App Store ahead of WWDC.

Top of everyone’s list? “Better search”. But what do we mean by “better”?

When I pressed Dave Verwer (who runs the excellent iOS Dev Weekly list) on this, he admitted that

“search is hard. However Apple has a huge amount of data not only on the apps that we buy, but on those that we use, where we keep them on our device home screen. I’d love to see Apple personalise search results in order to provide customers with more relevant results.”

James Thomson (of PCalc and DragThing fame) was also in favour of “better search and discoverability”. But this is a motherhood and apple pie response. How do you do it?

“I’d like to see old apps that haven’t been updated in years gradually retired from the store. I don’t want to search for apps and find ones that won’t even run properly on the latest devices,” Thomson said. “I would (unscientifically) guess that over half the apps on the store are ancient and broken and if you cleared them out of the search results, that would improve matters enormously. I think paid search on keywords is a terrible idea for indie developers and will only benefit the big companies with deep pockets, rather than the users. It will make the playing field even less level. Search should return the best and most relevant results, not the results that have the biggest marketing budget.”

That last is the strongest point. Schiller told me that nobody will be allowed to buy out a keyword; and you can be sure that Apple will have learned from the experiences of Google, where rows over ads bought against trademarks have been many and vicious.

Even so, I wonder if Apple is quite prepared for it. I think policing ads for scam apps which put in fake metadata is going to be a giant effort in its own right.

What about users? David, a user on Above Avalon, put it like this:

“Discovery is the big thing I’d like. It’s just like Spotify – they have all the music, but I still just use my playlists I built some 6-7 years ago. Then they launched Discover Weekly – and finally it was a format where I could truly discover new music again. I feel like being sixteen again (I’m 32), finding bands and even entire genres.

“So if Apple managed to actually get me to download new apps that are not just “my bank released a new app for managing my index funds” or “this city council has their own parking meter app” – I think they and app developers would benefit. I rarely these days truly discover new things in the store. I doubt it is because new things aren’t released. They don’t even have to be new. Just new to me.”

Or ask Daniel Jalkut, another developer:

“I think for discovery, there is a great potential in tapping social trust networks. I know Apple is famous for “not getting social” but imagine if there were an incentive to both review and rate apps because people trusted your point of view, and there was some payoff in the form of fame or fortune? I think Amazon gets a bit of this in the fact you can rate reviewers and they get some kind of “top reviewer” status after a while.

“Similarly, what if I could click a little ‘trust’ icon next to Charles Arthur’s review byline, and from then out whenever I searched … for anything … apps you had rated well floated up? I would click the “trust” icon for friends whose tastes I share, prominent bloggers who I’ve seen thoughtfully review apps, and random strangers whose reviews and rating keyed into my same tastes. By having some kind of opt-in trust system, you would reduce the risks of gaming, because nobody could game their way into your trust network except by your approval.”

The rudiments of searching

As Bloomberg had already discovered that Apple was thinking about paid search, developers have had time to ponder what might happen. Marco Arment was unforgiving back in April:

Such a system would exacerbate much of the App Store’s dysfunction, disincentivizing improvements to organic search and editorial features while raising the cost of acquiring new customers above what many indie developers and business models can sustain.

But then he seemed to relent:

Assuming the system would be auction-based by keyword like Google AdWords, for less-contested keywords, marketing apps could become much easier. Buying a few good phrases could inexpensively put your app at the top of the list to help you get off the ground and start to seed organic growth.

More significantly, we could buy increased exposure to the most likely customers to buy our apps. More paid-up-front apps could become viable, and prices could rise.

What’s almost certain to happen is that the money that used to flow into social media campaigns and ads on various other media will instead flow to buying ads on the App Store. Apple thus will capture more of developers’ marketing budget. And (per the point above about the 65% of installs) it can argue that that’s as it should be. I would guess that Facebook and Google are likely to be the two who won’t be significantly hit. (Google might lose a little.) Ben Thompson says the same – Facebook will be fine. Update: Thompson backs that up with an excellent point: Google has offered paid app ads in Google Play for a year already, and that’s had no appreciable effect on Facebook’s app install revenues, even though Android has the larger number of downloads overall.

Just to reinforce that, one of the developers I spoke to said that they use Facebook to target people who they know will be interested in their games; the way it can deliver the ads to the right demographic works for them.

If Apple selling paid search ads skims off those scammy ads which take over mobile pages and dump you in the App Store – looking at you, deadline.com – then some publishers will lose out, but other and better ads can replace them.

What it isn’t: “better” search

This isn’t the PageRank for apps that people had been hoping for. But the problem is that despite so many people thinking and talking about the need for “PageRank for apps”, we still don’t seem to know what it looks like.

Is it downloads times activity? One developer I spoke to recalled a time when their app was downloaded millions of times in a single weekend; when they looked on the Monday, their app ranked in the late teens. “I may be biased, but I’d think we should be No.1, because we know people were using it,” they said. Sure, that sounds reasonable. Downloads? Rate of increase of downloads over a minimum? Activity per download? Apple can get all those numbers, as indeed do a number of the meta-services like AppAnnie.

I asked about this. Schiller replied that simply biasing search towards download numbers times activity, and not having ads, would mean that the big established players would remain. (Think of Instagram and Facebook.) There wouldn’t be a way for small apps to break through. There’s some truth in that, certainly. Perhaps there just isn’t a PageRank for apps. (Sameer Singh at App Annie reckons that Google Now on Tap, in Android 6.0, is going to turn into PageRank for apps, but thinks it’s “a few years out”. We’ll have to wait and see.)

The other stuff, with subscriptions, is potentially going to help a lot more companies achieve long-term business success: halving the take by Apple in the second year of a subscription is helpful. There’s no more data sharing, but at least there’s more money. Plenty will be happy with that, at least.

Another point to consider: how will this be done? I wondered if this will take an iOS update to achieve, since the App Store isn’t decoupled from iOS in the way that Google Play is from Android. Schiller demurred on this. There’s more to come at WWDC. The really amazing thing would be if Apple is going to decouple bits of iOS from the system apps, as Google does. That would be remarkable. But now I’m really speculating.

Finally, why announce this now? Schiller said it’s because there’s “so much” to come. Well, sure, but there always is; content blocking, which arguably is huge, wasn’t in the keynote speech (except as a line in a word cloud on one slide), and people only slowly came to realise how important that was during the week. Apple could, for example, have preannounced that. But didn’t.

No, I think that Apple saw how concerned people were about paid search ads when the Bloomberg story came out, and decided that rather than having the entire discussion post-keynote be about that, they would instead announce it formally, along with improved subscriptions and the already-happening “faster review”. Let the storm clear, and then move on.

Start up: the world in 2045, Apple’s App Store revamp, Magic Leap’s hat show, app downloads pause, and more

0

What would you put in a time capsule to remind the future of what it got from us? Photo by marcmoss on Flickr.

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A selection of 11 links for you. Subscription-free (unless you’ve subscribed). I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

The world in 2045, according to DARPA • Tech Insider

Paul Szoldra:

»So what’s going to happen in 2045?

It’s pretty likely that robots and artificial technology are going to transform a bunch of industries, drone aircraft will continue their leap from the military to the civilian market, and self-driving cars will make your commute a lot more bearable.

But DARPA scientists have even bigger ideas. In a video series from October called “Forward to the Future,” three researchers predict what they imagine will be a reality 30 years from now.

Dr. Justin Sanchez, a neuroscientist and program manager in DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office, believes we’ll be at a point where we can control things simply by using our mind.

“Imagine a world where you could just use your thoughts to control your environment,” Sanchez said. “Think about controlling different aspects of your home just using your brain signals, or maybe communicating with your friends and your family just using neural activity from your brain.”

«

I’d really prefer not to do that. Would that be OK?
link to this extract

 


Apple to launch major overhaul of App Store with paid search ads and subscription changes • The Telegraph

Hey, it’s by me:

»The iPhone maker Apple is revamping its App Store, with a surprise move to introduce paid search ads for apps, as well as a new subscription model and faster reviews before approval.

The move to introduce a single paid ad at the top of search results in the App Store, initially in the US, could prove controversial both with developers and users, who told The Telegraph that they would prefer to see better “organic” search results rather than paid ads.

«

Every one of the developers (and users) I contacted ahead of the announcement – without saying Apple had anything planned – told me they wanted “better search”. None said they wanted paid search ads. Is this Apple getting the disquiet out of the way early? (I think that the principal effect will be to pull revenue from other media – though probably not Facebook, because its targeting is better.)
link to this extract

 


Google will offer app developers the same revenue sharing terms Apple just announced — with one big advantage • Recode

Mark Bergen:

»On Wednesday, Apple detailed major shake-ups coming to its powerful app store. Those include a new revenue sharing model that would give developers more money when users subscribe to a service via their apps — instead of keeping 70% of all revenue generated from subscriptions, publishers will be able to keep 85% of revenue, once a subscriber has been paying for a year.

Now Google plans to up the ante at its app store: It will also move from a 70/30 split to 85/15 for subscriptions — but instead of requiring developers to hook a subscriber for 12 months before offering the better split, it will make it available right away.

«

Except it’s not saying when it will bring this in. (Probably soon.) Will this make a big difference to app revenue for developers from Google in real terms? I’d love to know how many subscriptions there are through Google Play. The obvious one would be music services; I doubt there are that many business services.
link to this extract

 


We’ve seen Magic Leap’s device of the future, and it looks like Merlin’s skull cap • The Guardian

Danny Yadron:

»The much-hyped startup Magic Leap – backed by Google, Warner Brothers, JPMorgan Chase and others – recently won a patent for the design of an augmented reality headset. The device, according to a report in Wired, would let users superimpose calendars, kids pictures or jellyfish over day-to-day life. So-called mixed reality or augmented reality is seen by many as consumer technology’s next big wave.

Magic Leap’s design patent, which was granted on Tuesday, could offer the first look at what some say may be the most revolutionary tech gadget in years. It could also illustrate a stubborn problem that’s been holding augmented reality back.

It’s hard to imagine looking cool while wearing the devices.
«

Point of order, Madam Speaker, the author has seen a sketch of the device, not the device itself. But those drawings are usually pretty close – it was for the Segway, for instance. And this does look super-dorky. (The Guardian prevents image embeds.)
link to this extract

 


Hacking the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV hybrid • Pen Test Partners

»What’s really unusual is the method of connecting the mobile app to the car. Most remote control apps for locating the car, flashing the headlights, locking it remotely etc. work using a web service. The web service is hosted by the car manufacturer or their service provider. This then connects to the vehicle using GSM to a module on the car. As a result, one can communicate with the vehicle over mobile data from virtually anywhere.

«

Much fun has ensued, with Mitsubishi po-facedly saying it “takes it very seriously”. Given that people can randomly disable your car alarm, that is good.

This recalls the hacking of the Nissan LEAF back in February, of course. That was more internet-based, but still poor security at its heart.
link to this extract

 


Are you bored with apps? Some of the biggest apps around are seeing downloads plummet • PhoneArena

Stephen S:

»for some reason, there seems to be a widespread trend where growth is seriously slowing down – and in many cases, declining – for all but the very most popular apps.

For big players like Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, Spotify, and Twitter, app downloads are way down from last year’s figures. Some of those dips are are pushing upwards of 20% declines, representing millions of fewer downloads downloads each month.

Internationally the situation’s not particularly dire, and a good number of these apps are close to holding level, or even showing small growth. But there are definitely signs of a slowdown, especially among the big three of Facebook, Whatsapp, and Messenger – all three are seeing download figures tank.

In the US, however, things are quickly going from bad to worse, with nearly all the biggest apps seeing major growth fallout.

“Nearly,” we say, because there are two big exceptions to this trend: Snapchat and Uber.

Both relatively new and with their stars still on the rise, they’re the only two big apps capturing major growth, both in the US and aboard.

«

There’s a slideshow too, which shows big slowdowns in many apps. But there’s a simple explanation: the number of people new to smartphones is diminishing very rapidly, and those who are joining are the ones who aren’t that interested in downloading apps. (Thanks @elvengrail for the link.)
link to this extract

 


On reading issues of Wired from 1993 to 1995 • The New Yorker

Anna Wiener:

»Today’s future-booster events, like the annual Consumer Electronics Show, tend to prize stories of novelty and innovation—and yet, reading early Wired, it becomes clear that many of the inventions that claim to be new today are simply extensions of what came before. A sidebar on Wacom’s ArtPad, from 1995—“If you’ve ever sketched with a pencil, you’ll be able to use ArtPad”—made me wonder why it took Apple so long to roll out its Pencil stylus for the iPad. A 1994 article on continuous voice recognition—a core component of responsive products, like Amazon Echo and Apple’s Siri—effused, “IBM has some mondo hot technology on its hands here.” (Google, Microsoft, and Nuance Communications seem to have caught on since.) Early versions of 3-D printers, endless varieties of virtual-reality headsets, and remote-controlled, camera-laden helicopters abound. Perhaps the heart wants what it wants, and the heart has always wanted V.R., A.I., drones, and entertainment straight to the face.

In “Scenarios,” a special edition from 1995, the guest editor Douglas Coupland took it upon himself to compile a “reverse time capsule,” which he deemed “not a capsule directed to the future, but rather to the citizens of 1975.” What artifacts, he asked, “might surprise them most about the direction taken by the next 20 years?” Included in the capsule—alongside non-tech items such as a chunk of the Berlin Wall, Prozac, and a Japanese luxury sedan—were a laptop (“more power in your lap than MIT’s biggest mainframe”), an Apple MessagePad (“hand-held devices are replacing secretaries”), and a cellular phone. Scanning my apartment, I can spot progeny of all three.

«

link to this extract

 


The web’s creator looks to reinvent it • The New York Times

Quentin Hardy:

»“It’s been great, but spying, blocking sites, repurposing people’s content, taking you to the wrong websites — that completely undermines the spirit of helping people create.”

So on Tuesday, Mr. Berners-Lee gathered in San Francisco with other top computer scientists — including Brewster Kahle, head of the nonprofit Internet Archive and an internet activist — to discuss a new phase for the web.

Today, the World Wide Web has become a system that is often subject to control by governments and corporations. Countries like China can block certain web pages from their citizens, and cloud services like Amazon Web Services hold powerful sway. So what might happen, the computer scientists posited, if they could harness newer technologies — like the software used for digital currencies, or the technology of peer-to-peer music sharing — to create a more decentralized web with more privacy, less government and corporate control, and a level of permanence and reliability?

«

I feel like I’ve heard this song before; file under “nice idea”. Berners-Lee is a big name, but getting a new technology to proliferate is much easier when there are barely any users of the rivals than when it has been established for decades.
link to this extract

 


Yahoo lines up bids for about 3,000 patents • WSJ

Douglas Macmillan and Dana Mattioli:

»Yahoo Inc. has kicked off an auction for a portfolio of about 3,000 patents expected to fetch more than $1 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

In recent weeks, the internet company sent letters to a range of potential buyers for the patents, which date back to Yahoo’s initial public offering in 1996 and include its original search technology, one of the people said.

Yahoo has set a mid-June deadline for preliminary bids, this person said, and hired Black Stone IP, a boutique investment bank that specializes in patent sales, to run the auction.

«

Meanwhile the auction for the core of Yahoo looks like it will go to Verizon for $3bn. Will the last person to leave Yahoo sell the light bulb?
link to this extract

 


Fire Phone, two years later: Yes, a few people are still using Amazon’s ill-fated smartphone • GeekWire

Monica Nickelsburg:

»In the summer of 2015, Don Driscoll, an associate professor of physics at Kent State University, was ready to renew his Amazon Prime membership. He noticed Amazon’s Fire Phone was on sale for $130 and included a year of Prime. He decided to purchase the phone — which only cost $30 more than an annual Prime subscription — as a backup.

Later, when his LG Leon screen cracked, he switched to the Fire Phone and has been using it ever since.

“Why am I still using the Fire Phone? I guess I am just a cheapskate,” he said. “My family has stayed with T-Mobile for so long despite numerous coverage issues because it is cheap…The only thing stopping me from getting a new phone is cost.”

«

Neat idea to search out these users. Doesn’t stop it being a brick that gradually heated up, though.
link to this extract

 


The Fiksu acquisition in four words: ‘it’s tough out there’ • AdExchanger

Allison Schiff and Sarah Sluis:

»In early 2015, Fiksu claimed a $100 million run rate for 2014, was reportedly planning to go public and said it was gearing up to nearly double its headcount to 500. But by March 2015 those plans had fizzled. The company scrapped its IPO dreams and announced that it would be laying off 10% of its existing 260-person workforce. (Headcount today stands at 119.)

The borrowed cash seems to have created a problem. As business slowed, the money went toward keeping the company afloat rather than sustaining growth.

In the end, Bridge Bank essentially owned Fiksu’s assets at the time of the sale to Noosphere, which bought Fiksu directly from Bridge Bank. Essentially, the bank had called in its loan and the result was what one source called an “ugly bank takeover.”

Fiksu declined to comment on specifics other than to say that it disputes this version of events.

Fiksu’s acquisition is “a symptom of companies in the space that have raised a lot of money and there is an investor community pressuring them for an exit or next steps,” said Kochava’s Manning.

«

Essentially it seems to be an “incentivised installs” company which ran aground; the app install market is facing a crunch.
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: more iPhone rumours, tablet use falls, six useful algorithms, and more


TV in the US is losing its audience, and especially its paying audience. Photo by quinn.anya on Flickr.

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A selection of 12 links for you. Yes they are. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Introducing comment moderation for Periscope • Medium

»Dear Periscope Community,

We’ve seen incredible communities and real-life friendships form on Periscope because it’s live, unfiltered and open. We’ve also seen broadcasters get discovered and quickly grow a large, public following. But with this openness comes an increased risk for spam and abuse, and this is something that we take seriously.

Above all, we want our community to be safe on Periscope. Comments are a vital part of the experience and we’ve been working hard on a system that still feels true to the live and unfiltered nature of our platform. Specifically, we want to develop a system that is: transparent, community-led, and live.

«

It was inevitable. Let’s see how this goes.
link to this extract

 


Apple moving to 3-year ‘major’ iPhone cycle, adding complex vibrations to 2017 model – report • Apple Insider

Roger Fingas:

»Apple will likely be waiting until next year to debut its next major iPhone refresh, treating this year’s “iPhone 7” as yet another interim upgrade, a Japanese report said on Tuesday.

The 2017 iPhone is expected to make the switch to OLED, among other important design changes, Nikkei said. While that would support recent rumors, the business publication also made an original claim that the device will have a new vibration motor, capable of producing more complex patterns than earlier iPhones.

That could indicate that Apple will use an evolved version of its “Taptic Engine,” found in devices like the Apple Watch and the iPhone 6s. The technology lets devices produce different, subtle responses to user actions and notifications.

The “iPhone 7” is likely to stay mostly the same, Nikkei said, the most noticeable difference being the removal of the 3.5-millimeter headphone jack. Camera, water resistance, and battery technology should be improved, the paper continued, also mentioning that “a high-end version of the model will give users better-quality photo capabilities via correction functions.”

Rumors have suggested that the standard iPhone 7 might gain optical image stabilization, while a “7 Plus” will have a dual-lens camera.

«

link to this extract

 


Tablet usage declines • Global Web Index

Katie Young:

»Certainly, tablets have enjoyed healthy growth in recent years; since 2011, the numbers getting online via these devices have more than trebled – jumping from just 10% at the start of the decade to more than 1 in 3 in 2016.

However, from market to market, region to region, a closer look at these figures reveals that the boom days for tablets appear to be over. The speed of the increases slowed dramatically during 2015 and, in the first quarters of 2016, tablets have now started to decline. What’s more, 16-24s now lag behind virtually all other age groups in terms of usage.

Clearly, these devices are struggling to convince many that they are must-have rather than just nice-to-have devices. So, unless tablets can provide a level of functionality sufficiently higher than mobiles to warrant the expense, we can expect this trend to continue.

«

link to this extract

 


Nearly 1 in 4 people abandon mobile apps after only one use • TechCrunch

Sarah Perez:

»Based on data from analytics firm Localytics, and its user base of 37,000 applications, user retention has seen a slight increase year-over-year from 34% in 2015 to 38% in 2016.

However, just because this figure has recovered a bit, that doesn’t mean the numbers are good. Instead, what this indicates is that 62 percent of users will use an app less than 11 times.

Says the report, “this is not a sustainable business model.”

These days, 23% launch an app only once – an improvement over last year, but only slightly. For comparison’s sake, only 20% of users were abandoning apps in 2014.

On iOS, user retention saw some slight improvements. The percentage of those only opening apps once fell to 24% from 26% last year, and those who return to apps 11 times or more grew to 36% from 32% in 2015.

«

That seems depressing. Then again, thinking of my own use, I tend to install apps, and not use them for ages; then I’ll suddenly discover a use, and go with it. It’s not quite “abandonment”. There aren’t that many apps that I have to use every day, or even every month. But there are lots that I might use once a year. (And there’s no particular distinction between mobile and desktop in that regard.)
link to this extract

 


The TV industry will unravel faster than you think — Lightspeed Venture Partners • Medium

Alex Taussig says it’s all going to go bad for the big networks:

»The most obvious beneficiaries of the decline of old TV media will be the dominant social networks who nail video: Facebook, Snapchat,* and perhaps Twitter, if the whole Periscope thing works out. (A new social network built natively with video could also be a contender. Email me if that’s what you’re working on!) They each have their own power law dynamics and, by most measures, are significantly larger and more global than the TV networks. Their data allows them to target videos more precisely; so, despite larger quantities of social video in the world, the odds of a specific consumer engaging with a given video are (in theory) much higher. If properly executed, they could expand the $73bn TV advertising market today by transforming it from an audience-based to a performance-based medium.

The second group of beneficiaries will be the new stream aggregators: Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, Twitch, and the like. These streams will continue to aggregate and package long tail content and form direct relationships with consumers. Again, there will only be a few winners here.

«

Taussig points to two key bits of data: US pay TV penetration rates are falling

and only those aged over 65 now watch more TV than they did five years ago:

Hard to argue with his reasoning.
link to this extract

 


Dell reveals industry’s first 17in 2-In-1 laptop • Twice

Joseph Palenchar:

»The PC industry’s first 17-inch two-in-one convertible Windows laptop is among six new Inspiron two-in-one laptops unveiled by Dell at Computex in Taiwan, Microsoft announced.

All six of the convertible two-in-ones come with touchscreen display and secure Windows Hello login via optional or standard built-in infrared cameras. A 360-degree hinge delivers four modes: laptop mode, tent mode for presentations, stand mode for playing movies, and tablet mode.

«

OK, that’s too big. Thanks, Dell, for showing us the limit, beyond which you’ve gone.
link to this extract

 


Six algorithms that can improve your life • WNYC

Manoush Zomorodi:

»There’s been a lot of negative press lately about algorithms (Facebook, Snapchat, the prison system). But this week we’re exploring ways that mathematical and scientific algorithms can actually help improve how we live.

Brian Christian co-wrote the book “Algorithms to Live By” with his friend, Tom Griffiths, a psychology and cognitive science professor at UC Berkeley. Brian is all about the intersection of technology and humanity, and figuring out how to use data to help people optimize their lives.

In their book, Brian and Tom offer really practical applications for scientific principles, which we’ll get to in a minute. But first, here’s the catch: There’s no formula for perfection. Even if you apply these algorithms to your life, things will go wrong. But by trying out these algorithms, you can statistically give it your best shot.

«

Includes: how to find stuff on your desk, stop tagging/filing your emails, arrange appointments faster, and more. Also with audio.
link to this extract

 


Economist editor: ‘We don’t want to be the grandpa at the disco’ • The Guardian

Mark Sweney interviews Zanny Milton Beddoes, editor of The Economist:

»Despite this success, as at other publishers print sales at the Economist have fallen across the globe, although the circulation still stands at 1.25m copies a week. Digital edition sales have broken through the 300,000 mark, up by 50% or more year-on-year in most markets, including the UK but not North and South America. Minton Beddoes says the print decline is in part to do with a “drive to quality” – getting rid of bulk copies and converting readers to paid subscribers.

“The overall circulation is slightly down but the profitability of our circulation is rising and print is still holding up remarkably well,” she says. “I’m completely agnostic [about whether] people read print or digital, I really want them to have a premium subscription giving them access to both.” The Economist is still willing to embrace the potential of print, as is shown by it launching 1843, a bi-monthly magazine (which replaced Intelligent Life) aimed at the “globally curious” which aims to speak to them “when they have their feet up, on a weekend break, on holiday”.

Minton Beddoes says the Economist is not feeling the same extreme pressure as advertising-reliant newspaper publishers. “I’m very simple about this. You make money out of things people pay for,” she says. “Subscriptions is the bulk of our business, ads are nice to have on top of that. We are in the midst of a massively changing disrupted industry and that is incredibly exciting but it is also challenging. There are going to be winners in that and losers. It is foolish for anyone to be complacent. I am confident and hopeful and paranoid at the same time.”

«

link to this extract

 


Are Trump hotels taking a ‘yuge’ hit? • Tailwind by Hipmunk

Kelly Soderlund on data from hotel-booking system Hipmunk:

»The Trump brand is associated with a variety of hotels, apartments, and products. On one hand, a growing number of political supporters could boost sales of Trump products; on the other, a growing number political detractors could lead people to avoid his brand. So which of these two forces is stronger?

We set out to answer this question by comparing the number of bookings at Trump Hotels’ most-booked locations this year on Hipmunk to bookings in the same locations the year prior (before he attracted national political attention).

The results? The share of bookings at Trump Hotels on Hipmunk as a percent of total hotel bookings are down, decreasing 59% compared to the same period last year.

While overall Hipmunk hotel bookings have been on the rise year-over-year, that has not been the case with bookings of Trump Hotels.

«

You could think of all sorts of possible reasons, but just not wanting to put any money into Trump’s pockets, and instead favouring Any Other Hotel Chain, seems like the immediately most plausible.
link to this extract

 


Forced Windows 10 upgrades push users to dangerously disable Windows Update • PC World

Brad Chacos:

»Ironically, improved security is one of Windows 10’s selling points. But by pushing it on users in such a heavy-handed way, Microsoft is encouraging users who have very valid reasons to stick with Windows 7/8 to perform actions that leave their machines open to attack. That’s bad. Very bad.

For the record: Don’t disable Windows Updates unless you’re an advanced user who wants to parse and manually install Windows patches. Instead, leave them active but also install GWX Control Panel or Never10, free tools that block the Get Windows 10 pop-ups and behavior. Microsoft’s been known to push out new patches that work around those tools in the past, however—again, violating Windows Update’s sanctity to push its new OS. Be sure to read the fine print if a GWX pop-up does appear in order to avoid being tricked into Windows 10.

«

Coming to something when people complain of feeling “tricked” into getting an operating system for free that they would have been queueing around the block to pay for a few years ago. Well, 20 years ago.
link to this extract

 


How big an issue is the nausea problem for virtual reality products? • Quora

Steve Baker is ex-Rediffusion Simulation, Hughes Aircraft, L3 Simulation:

»I’ve been working with helmet mounted displays in military flight simulation for several decades – I am an expert in the field.

IMHO – these devices should be banned – but that may not be necessary because after the first wave of early adopters I think it’ll go the way of 3D televisions. But that’s just my opinion. Let me explain why.

Everyone thinks these things are new and revolutionary…but they really aren’t. All that’s happened is that they dropped in price from $80,000 to $500…and many corners have been cut along the way.

There are several claims that the nausea problem has either been fixed, or will soon be fixed, or that application design can be used to work-around the problem.

The claims that it’s been fixed are based on the theory that the nausea is caused by latency/lag in the system, or by low resolution displays or by inaccurate head motion tracking…all of which can (and are) being fixed by obvious improvements to the system. Sadly, the $80,000 googles we made for the US military had less latency, higher resolution displays, and more accurate head tracking than any of the current round of civilian VR goggles…and they definitely made people sick – so this seems unlikely.

«

He has plenty more to say too about focal lengths and depth perception, and aftereffects. Worth considering. Of course, you could always assume that your users are going to be confused to begin with…
link to this extract

 


VR Party Game is a ridiculously confusing virtual reality experience for Cardboard • Android Police

Rita El Khoury:

»What if virtual reality was just reality, with a small asterisk? What if you could strap on your VR headset, regardless of the brand or technology behind them, and see the same thing that’s in front of you… but mirrored? Or upside down? Or delayed by 2 seconds? Ha, what a novel idea!

VR Party Game does just that. It’s a Cardboard app/game that transmits your smartphone’s rear camera view onto the screen, but applies one of three special effects to confuse you. It can delay the view by 2 seconds, mirror it, or flip it upside down. The idea is to use it as a party game with friends, asking each other to complete a few tasks while wearing the Cardboard headset…

…VR Party Game is just mindless fun and as such, you may find the price a little steep. The app costs $0.99 but that only gives you the delay and mirror modes. Upside down is another $0.99 IAP.

«

OH NO. A WHOLE $1.98??
link to this extract

 


Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: none notified.

Start up: mobile phones still safe, Clinton’s email screwup, Apple Store life, Facebook everywhere, and more


You can study first dates using economics. Ask about their STDs! Photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.

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A selection of 13 links for you. There you are. I’m charlesarthur on Twitter. Observations and links welcome.

Cellphone radiation is still safer than viral science stories • Mashable

Jason Abbruzzese:

»Here’s the study’s title: “Report of Partial findings from the National Toxicology Program Carcinogenesis Studies of Cell Phone Radiofrequency Radiation in Hsd: Sprague Dawley® SD rats (Whole Body Exposure)

And here’s a summary from Mashable science editor Andrew Freedman: “The partial results show that exposing large doses of radiation over about two years to male rats can cause unusually high rates of two specific kinds of tumors. But the comparison to humans is a question mark and comparison even to the control group of rats is problematic because of abnormalities in that group. There are a lot of statistical oddities in the study.”

And now, a selection of headlines from various outlets that covered the study.

«

They’re all terrible misrepresentations. Survival in the control group of males was lower than in the exposed group of males. So.. mobile phones make you live longer?
link to this extract


Why Google and Boston Dynamics are parting ways • Tech Insider

Danielle Muoio:

»In 2015, Google attempted to take control of the robotics groups to learn what they were working on and how it could be translated into a consumer product, the former employees said.

“That’s when we first started seeing Google…actually trying to have leadership structure over all those robotic groups,” one former employee said. “Where they’re saying, ‘Okay, what do you do? Are you mobility, are you vision?’ …. and grouping them and directing them toward a commercial product space.”

It’s still unclear what exactly Google wanted in terms of a consumer product. One former employee said Google wanted an easy-to-use robot that could help with basic tasks around the house. One idea pitched was that it would roam around on wheels, which could arguably be seen as more consumer friendly than a complex, legged robot.

Boston Dynamics, given that it was born out of the MIT Leg Lab, was rubbed that wrong way by that concept.

«

Word is that Boston Dynamics is being sold to Toyota.
link to this extract


Clinton’s email shenanigans sure don’t look like an honest mistake • Bloomberg View

Megan McArdle:

»Today is the day that so many of us have been waiting for: The State Department’s Office of Inspector General has released its report about Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server while she was secretary of state. The report does not uncover any smoking guns – no records of Clinton saying “Heh, heh, heh, they’ll never FOIA my e-mails NOW!!!!” – what it does lay out is deeply troubling. Even though her supporters have already begun the proclamations of “nothing to see here, move along.”

It lays to rest the longtime Clinton defense that this use of a private server was somehow normal and allowed by government rules: It was not normal, and was not allowed by the government rules in place at the time “The Department’s current policy, implemented in 2005, is that normal day-to-day operations should be conducted on an authorized Automated Information System (AIS), which “has the proper level of security control to … ensure confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the resident information.”

It also shreds the defense that “Well, Colin Powell did it too” into very fine dust, and then neatly disposes of the dust…

… it isn’t minor. Setting up an e-mail server in a home several states away from the security and IT folks, in disregard of the rules designed to protect state secrets and ensure good government records, and then hiring your server administrator to a political slot while he keeps managing your system on government time … this is not acceptable behavior in a government official. If Clinton weren’t the nominee, or if she had an R after her name rather than a D, her defenders would have no difficulty recognizing just how troubling it is.

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Clinton really, really screwed this up.
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Q&A with an Apple Store worker: ‘yes, it’s like a cult’ • Business Insider

Jim Edwards had a long chat with an ex-Apple Store employee, who has tons of fascinating detail, including this:

»BI: You were at Apple for four years. Why couldn’t you become a store manager?

A: It’s very difficult at Apple. We had between five and eight store managers during my time at the store, of varying kinds. Only one of them had started at Apple the rest had been recruited from elsewhere. From, say, Dixons or HMV.

BI: Why don’t they promote from within? Surely the regular sales staff are the most knowledgeable?

A: That was a hugely contentious issue. They did try to fix that with a “Lead and Learn” programme, where you train on the shop floor by acting as a manager without being a manager. We had some great people on the shop floor, people who had been there for five years, who were selling more than anyone else. But they were still just specialists or experts [two of the lowest ranked positions at Apple].

BI: So why is Apple not promoting these people?

A: I don’t know. It was controversial, hence the “Lead and Learn” programme. But as far as I’m aware — and I’m still in contact with these people — no-one on this programme has been promoted to manager. There are other jobs in-store that can earn you more money, but they’re technical jobs, like working at the Genius Bar, which a lot of people absolutely hated because you’re dealing with really angry customers.

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Tons more in there. Worth the time.
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Facebook wants to help sell every ad on the web • WSJ

Jack Marshall:

»Facebook has set out to power all advertising across the Internet.

To that end, the social network and online advertising company said Thursday it will now help marketers show ads to all users who visit websites and applications in its Audience Network ad network. Previously Facebook only showed ads to members of its social network when they visited those third-party properties.

The change is a subtle one, but it could mean Facebook will soon help to sell and place a much larger portion of the video and display ads that appear across the Internet. The change will also intensify competition with Alphabet Inc. subsidiary Google, which dominates the global digital-advertising market, and a wide range of other online ad specialists.

“Publishers and app developers have some users who aren’t Facebook users. We think we can do a better job powering those ads,” said Andrew Bosworth, vice president of Facebook’s ads and business platform.

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1.6bn people on Facebook; 3.2bn people using the internet worldwide. Room to grow.
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How many stories do newspapers publish per day? • The Atlantic

Robinson Meyer:

»The [New York] Times says it publishes several hundred stories from the Associated Press or other wire services online every day, but almost all of them expire and go offline after a few weeks. The number of wire stories that make it to the print paper—about 13 per day—hasn’t changed significantly since 2010.

At The Wall Street Journal, the set-up is different. Because the Journal’s online content more closely mirrors what makes it into the paper, it publishes only about 240 stories per day. That’s both online and in print. About seven wire stories per day make it into the paper.

At the Journal, the number of stories per day has fallen more significantly than at other venues. Five years ago, the paper published about 325 stories per day. A spokeswoman told me that the recent drop in Wall Street Journal stories per day can be explained by the fact that the paper integrated its own newsroom with the Dow Jones wire service in 2013.

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Wolfgang Blau, formerly at the Guardian and now at Conde Nast, has a comment on this, including this dangerous observation:

»journalism – just like search, social or e-commerce, but with a delay – is now globalizing and will be dominated by publishers whose home base is already large enough to make it there, i. e. the US or China. The British model of having to expand into the US just to finance their domestic operation (Daily Mail, Guardian) is doomed…

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Does online media have a political agenda? • Parsely

Conrad Lee:

»A couple of months ago, Journalist Nicholas Kristof wrote a controversial op-ed column in The New York Times about how “The Media Helped Make Trump.” In the piece, he argued that the $1.9 billion in free publicity that the media has given Donald Trump so far during this election cycle has provided him with a platform from which to spew “outrageous statements that [draw] ever more cameras — without facing enough skeptical follow-up questions.” In the aftermath of Kristof’s piece, readers and journalists fervently debated the veracity of his claims.

Because we work with media sites around the world to help answer questions about how readers are responding to content, Parse.ly is in a unique position to provide insight into this particular debate. We analyzed more than one billion page views across more than 100,000 articles to figure out which of the last five remaining major U.S. Presidential candidates were getting the most attention both from reporters and readers.

PLAY WITH OUR DATA

The results surprised us, suggesting that while journalists seem to be preoccupied with covering Trump, the public is not especially interested in reading about him.

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The celebrity privacy case that exposes hypocrisy of Silicon Valley power brokers • The Guardian

Evgeny Morozov:

»Silicon Valley’s elites hate such intrusion into their personal lives. Had they worked for any other industry, their concerns would be justified. But they work for an industry that tries to convince us that privacy does not matter and that transparency and deregulation are the way to go. Since they do not lead by example, why shouldn’t their hypocrisy be exposed?

If tech elites are so concerned about privacy, they can start backing initiatives such as the right to be forgotten. Why can’t Thiel – a backer of the Oslo Freedom Forum, an annual gathering of the world’s dissidents where the Human Rights Foundation awards the Václav Havel international prize for creative dissent – help us to make sure that embarrassing content, taken out of context and now enjoying worldwide circulation thanks to social networks and search engines, is easier to manage?

This won’t happen, as the right to be forgotten undermines the very business model – grab whatever data is available – on which the untaxed riches of Silicon Valley are built. In Thiel’s ideal world, our data flows freely and the tech companies can hoover it up as they see fit. Should someone else pry into our lives, disclosing intimate details and making money out of it, then it suddenly becomes a crime against humanity.

A world where the tech elites have all the privacy that they want while the rest of us have to either accept living in public or invest in market solutions like online reputation systems is a world that rests on foundations that are so hypocritical and so ridiculous that they must be exposed.

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Google steps up pressure on partners tardy in updating Android • Bloomberg

Jack Clark and Scott Moritz:

»Smaller Android phone makers didn’t even attempt the monthly goal [for security updates to Android]. HTC Corp. executive Jason Mackenzie called it “unrealistic” last year. Motorola previously tried to get handsets three years old or newer patched twice a year. It’s now aiming for quarterly updates, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Google is trying to persuade carriers to exclude its security patches from the full series of tests, which can cost several hundred thousand dollars for each model, according to an executive at a leading Android handset maker.

“Google has come a long way since Stagefright,” said Joshua Drake, a senior researcher at mobile security firm Zimperium. But it’s still a struggle because some carriers don’t treat security as a priority, while phone makers have other incentives, such as selling new devices, he added.

Google is using more forceful tactics. It has drawn up lists that rank top phone makers by how up-to-date their handsets are, based on security patches and operating system versions, according to people familiar with the matter. Google shared this list with Android partners earlier this year. It has discussed making it public to highlight proactive manufacturers and shame tardy vendors through omission from the list, two of the people said. The people didn’t want to be identified to maintain their relationships with Google.

“Google is putting pressure on,” said Sprint’s [vp of product development Ryan] Sullivan, who has seen data that Google uses to track who is falling behind. “Since we are the final approval, we are applying pressure because our customers are expecting it.”

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On Peter Thiel and Gawker • Elizabeth Spiers

Spiers was the founding editor of Gawker (2002-3) which “was mostly interested in insider media stuff, and even then, it just wasn’t that scandalous”; now she’s a venture capitalist. She has never met Thiel, but thinks his acts in going after Gawker might worry future co-investors or entrepreneurs working with him:

»he would have been someone I’d have been curious to meet, in part because I am convinced that he’s smart, provocative, and thinks in a very long term way about big thorny problems.

But there’s interesting-fun-mercurial and there’s the kind of mercurial where you start to worry about being anywhere near the blast radius when the person blows up, for of being completely incinerated — maybe even unintentionally. And that’s where I wonder what he’s like as an investor in situations where he’s actively involved. If you have a disagreement with him, is the result a reasonable adjudication of the conflict, or is there always a possibility that even small things could result in total annihilation?

And because I know there’s someone somewhere reading this and thinking “well, what the fuck is wrong with total annihilation when someone screws you over?”, here’s what I’d say: there’s a reason why proportionality is an important concept in the ethics of warfare and I think there’s a parallel here. I don’t want to go into Just War Theory/jus en bello rules of engagement or whether it’s a morally correct military doctrine, but if we didn’t largely hew to it, we could easily end up in a “because we can” cycle of foreign policy that allows wealthy powerful nations to catastrophically and relentlessly attack weaker ones for minor offenses. Disproportionate response facilitates tyranny.

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When journalism gets confused with cyberbullying • Medium

Kristi Culpepper:

»What I do find interesting, however, is that so many journalists clamored to Gawker’s defense. Most non-journalists that I converse with were delighted to see Gawker taken down so spectacularly. Gawker is a morally repulsive publication — and not Larry Flynt repulsive, but let’s utterly destroy some random person’s life for giggles repulsive.

Gawker relishes abusive content and most of the time does not care if the claims they are making about people can be verified. We aren’t talking about a publication that stops at publishing celebrity nudes and sex tapes without permission, but that publishes videos of a woman being raped in a bathroom stall in a sports bar despite her begging them not to. Contrary to what several of the reporters in my Twitter feed have suggested, Gawker does not have a reputation for “punching up.” They just punch.

I think reporters’ displays of support for Gawker in this case raises a lot of questions about ethics in journalism and demonstrates an overarching decline in editorial standards as traditional media competes with online venues. The test of journalism should be whether reporting or writing serves a public purpose. It says a lot about the state of journalism that public interest is now confused with arbitrary victimization and cyberbullying. There are pre-teens on Facebook with more professional restraint.

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Culpepper describes herself as a “bond market geek” (so hardly a hedge fund owner or billionaire), and points to the fact that it was Gawker which published the ironic tweet by a PR boarding a plane and turned it into a job- and career-destroying experience, besides plenty else.

That said, print publications have done plenty of mad damage to people too.
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The market failure of first dates • Priceonomics

Sarah Scharf:

»While not rocking the boat may seem like ideal strategy for getting a second date, [economist Dan] Ariely argues that sticking to neutral topics (haven’t we all been on a date where the weather was discussed ad nauseum?) creates a “bad equilibrium”—an outcome where both sides converge, but neither side is pleased with it.

In an experiment he ran with online daters, subjects were forced to eschew safe topics in their messages and only throw out probing, personally revealing questions like “How many lovers have you had?” or “Do you have any STDs?”

The result? Both sides were more satisfied with the outcome. So the next time you find yourself on a “boring” date, the solution may be to push the envelope—and converge upon a new equilibrium.

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This economic look at why and how dates work is great. (Note: I haven’t been on a first date for more than 20 years but am guessing stuff hasn’t really changed.) the next article in the series is how Subaru targeted lesbians to get a foothold in the US market. I’m agog.
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Jawbone stops production of fitness trackers • Tech Insider

Steve Kovach:

»It’s been over a year since Jawbone has released a new flagship fitness tracker. Despite entering the wearables market almost five years ago, Jawbone has failed to gain any significant market share in the space. FitBit and Apple currently dominate.

Jawbone raised a new $165m round of funding in January. The company’s CEO Hosain Rahman told Tech Insider a few months ago that the company plans to use that money to develop clinical-grade fitness trackers.

«

Jawbone is also looking to sell its speaker business. It’s cashing in its chips in the consumer space and heading upmarket, having been driven out of business at the low end. Wearables is consolidating fast: there have been a number of purchases of smaller companies by larger ones in adjacent spaces.
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Errata, corrigenda and ai no corrida: